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Katie McCabe says her team won’t be star-struck as Ireland set for double date with world champions USA


Katie McCabe in action against China

Katie McCabe in action against China

Katie McCabe in action against China

Ireland’s trip to the US will represent a sense of circle completion for the World Cup-bound squad.

A team that dares to achieve excellence may still be far from it but their qualification for the summer showpiece has alerted the international community.

The fact that the world champions have followed through on their interest in seeking a game with Ireland, even if only on their terms, and their soil, is reflective of Ireland’s status as an emerging force.

“It is beyond the best preparation,” Pauw says.

“We could have taken a lot of games against minor countries, and I said, 'no, no, no. Just wait, wait, wait, because it will come because of the contacts we have.'

“We now have the perfect preparation. First we took Morocco because we knew there would be a drop, we wanted to play behind closed doors against Germany, and they came to us and we needed that pressure.

“Who would have dreamed of playing the World Cup holders, it’s the best you can get and then playing an African nation before playing at the highest level against France before a closed door game in Australia that we still have to finalise.”

The double header with the United States will be the first meeting between the teams since August 2019 and will act as the 14th and 15th games overall.

The first match will be played in Austin, Texas on Saturday, April 8 (7.30 pm Irish time) with the second match being hosted in St. Louis, Missouri on Tuesday, April 11 (12.30 am Irish time)

And so four years on from their last visit Stateside, when far fewer held any interest in the ambitions of an Irish national side, Katie McCabe will lead her side out perhaps unsure of their truest quality, but with little doubt about their status.

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Austin and St Louis will host not only the reigning world champions, a side well established as an elite outfit, but visitors who are seeking to establish their integrity amongst the world’s best.

In 2019, there was minimal interest when Tom O’Connor, a buffer between the reigns of Colin Bell and Vera Pauw, took his side to the Rose Bowl in LA and lost 3-0.

They will return as the first female senior squad to participate in a World Cup.

“It's been a while,” smiles Katie McCabe, who led her team then and will do so again in April; yesterday’s friendly against China was the 50th time she donned the armband.

“For me, it will be interesting to see how much we've progressed in those few years since we last played them. You can't ask for anything better than that.

“We've shown as well before the World Cup campaign, Vera playing those top-quality oppositions to really test us .

“Yeah, we weren't winning the games but they were really challenging us from a mental and physical point of view.”

Despite being behind closed doors, last Friday’s challenge against Germany exposed a wide gap but the Arsenal star is undeterred.

“That's what we want though, we want to be challenged. It's really exciting, it's fantastic both Associations could organise it. It will be a tasty one, and Denise O’Sullivan and Heather Payne won't have to do the travel!”

Neither will newest recruit Marissa Sheva.

While O’Sullivan, the most recognisable face Stateside and recently appointed North Carolina Courage captain, will be earning her 100th cap but Washington Spirit recruit Sheva will be hoping to win just her second and build upon her impressive Chinese cameo yesterday.

“I had heard that was a possibility,” says the midfielder of facing the land of her birth.

“That’s really exciting. It will be awesome for us. We want to play against the best teams in the world in order to prepare for the World Cup. No better test than the US, that will be awesome.

“They’re always going to bring it, they’re really, really tough team. They’re consistently at the top so 2023 is probably going to be no different. They’re going to be a tough opponent.”

Ireland managed to eke out a qualifying draw in Sweden, an acknowledged super power so she will encourage her team to remain unbowed, and certainly not cowed, despite last week’s heavy defeat behind closed doors to Germany.

“I wasn't star struck at all in 2019,” added McCabe. It's just 11 v 11. They're stars in their own right over there, what they stand for, and they use their platform in such a positive way and I fully support that.

“But at the end of the day, we're stepping on the pitch and it's 11 v 11. I can confirm no one will be starstruck.”

Another veteran, Louise Quinn, is also eagerly anticipating the twin tests of Ireland’s mettle; their seven-game run of clean sheets may inevitably halt.

“That’s the ultimate test,” says the Birmingham defender, who also featured in the 3-0 defeat in front of 37,000 people in Pasadena four years ago.

“We’re both going to be prepping for the World Cup. We’ve played the US multiple times. It’s usually on their victory tours and this that and the other.

“We feel like we’ve proved to ourselves what kind of team we are, how many clean sheets we can keep against top nations, the bit of variety in our play.

“We know they are probably going to dominate possession more than likely but we know what we can bring. In our group we have three champions of their continents.

“We’ve really got our work cut out for us so to play the No 1 side in the world is going to get our mindset around it. There’ll be plenty of Irish there for us, it’ll be good to have big crowds that will prep us for July.”

Meanwhile, extra tickets to Ireland's World Cup opener v Australia on July 20 go on sale tomorrow at 1am Irish time. The Girls in Green will play in front of the biggest crowd ever at the 83,500 seater ground to open their campaign before meeting Canada and Ghana.

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