Vera Pauw wary of ‘breaking dreams’ as Katie McCabe named for USA trip

Manager Vera Pauw will lead the Ireland team to two friendlies against the USA in Austin, Texas and St Louis, Missouri. Photo: Sportsfile

Aidan Fitzmaurice

Vera Pauw insists there is no club v country tension between Arsenal and the FAI over Katie McCabe’s call-up for two friendly internationals in the USA later this month as the London club are happy for the Ireland captain to report for duty.

And as she fine-tunes her plans for that historic World Cup finals appearance in July, Pauw admits that she “hates” the burden of selecting a final squad, aware that omitting players will “break dreams”.

Pauw and her squad will fly to the US early next week ahead of two friendlies against the USA, in TAustin and St Louis.

Aside from the immense challenge of facing the USA – the world’s number one-ranked side – Pauw also has to cope with a return to American soil for the first time since soccer authorities there issued a sanction against any future employment for her in the US. The ban stems from issues in her time at Houston Dash and charges which Pauw strenuously denies.

Pauw said she was not concerned about facing questions from the American media but added: “I’m not looking forward to it. I hope that the people in the USA are wise and are reading the articles that have been written in Ireland”.

In terms of facing the USA team, she says the players, led by McCabe, want “pressure” in games to steel them for the World Cup.

“When you need to get to a certain point you have to take risks of failure because otherwise you’ll not get ready. You have to pull yourself out of your comfort zone to get to the highest level. If you get a bad defeat then of course you don’t want that and it will hurt us, but it’s better now than in the first game of the World Cup,” Pauw says.

An Irish XI picked to face the US will clearly be stronger for the presence of McCabe. Despite what looked like a potentially season-ending foot injury picked up in Arsenal’s midweek Champions League win over Bayern Munich, the injury is not serious and McCabe is fit enough to make the US trip.

Pauw says she did fear the worst when TV pictures showed her captain on crutches after the Bayern win. “I never swear but at that moment, I had a bad word coming out,” she joked.

“Of course I was very worried. I thought ‘let it not interfere with her World Cup’ because she deserves it so much and Ireland deserves to have her at the World Cup.

“There was a fear of a fracture, yes. With a fracture you always have to wait for how bad it is.

“The first relief was the biggest, that nothing was really damaged, and there is no damage, just swelling. It looks like a very bad bruise on the bone and now the assessment is that if that bruise can heal in time she can play, but that is up to the doctor.”

With a busy April ahead in their pursuit of WSL and Champions League titles, Arsenal may have asked for McCabe to be excused from international duty. But Pauw says there was no issue from the Gunners’ side.

“That is part of the consideration,” Pauw says.

“Arsenal are very supportive, they know how much Katie wants to be here, they know how much it means to her, that’s what they said to us and they know if Katie is not able to travel it also influences her functioning in the club, her heart is so big for Ireland.”

McCabe will travel if passed fit and there will be some new faces on the plane. Tanzania-born keeper Sophie Whitehouse is eligible for four counties but has opted for Ireland while home-based pair Alannah McEvoy and Tara O’Hanlon earn a place in the panel on the back of impressive domestic form.

Niamh Fahey, Chloe Mustaki, Ellen Molloy, Jess Ziu and Leanne Kiernan all miss out through injury while Megan Campbell is absent for personal reasons.

Pauw says that injured quintet are still in her plans but stresses that it will be difficult for players lacking game time at club level to leap from the long list of 50 into the 23-strong travelling party.

“I hate my job at that moment but I don’t moan because it’s harder for the players to receive the message,” she says of that duty to pick a squad.

“We are planning and we are assessing but very, very consciously because we know that we are making and breaking dreams.”