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'They don't care about second tier' – Vera Pauw slams FIFA and UEFA over shift in focus at top of women's game

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Republic of Ireland manager Vera Pauw in attendance at the SSE Airtricity Women's National League match between DLR Waves and Wexford Youths at UCD Bowl, Belfield on Saturday. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Republic of Ireland manager Vera Pauw in attendance at the SSE Airtricity Women's National League match between DLR Waves and Wexford Youths at UCD Bowl, Belfield on Saturday. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Republic of Ireland manager Vera Pauw in attendance at the SSE Airtricity Women's National League match between DLR Waves and Wexford Youths at UCD Bowl, Belfield on Saturday. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Vera Pauw’s women’s squad may be insistently maintaining their quest for equal status – if not immediately equal pay – within their own association but for now the Dutch woman has aimed fire with ire at the highest authorities in the sport.

As Ireland continue to struggle to assemble friendly opposition ahead of their World Cup qualifiers later this year, Pauw has lamented the potential for a widening gulf between the haves and have-nots of the international game.

Alerted by the Irish Independent to the fact that her rugby colleagues have enjoyed 60 sessions and 20 camps for their Six Nations preparations, Pauw, whose side have had just 10 training sessions and five camps in more than a year, bemoaned UEFA’s proposed expansion of the Champions League which could limit her side’s competitiveness even further.

“FIFA and UEFA have pushed it through that club football is getting more and more time,” said Pauw, ahead of Thursday’s Tallaght friendly against Belgium, a game followed two days later by a trip to face Belgium.

“So that means the international windows in January and May have gone, August has already gone. That means up to six games a year have gone for development.

“For the top nations it is okay, because they and their players are already playing at the highest level and in the Champions League.

“For the second-tier countries, and I consider us a second tier just below the elite, you need international games to experience the international pressure that the best players experience every week.

“Removing January, May and August means that nobody cares about the second tier countries. Now we will have a new Champions League system coming in with more games for the best teams.

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“And Ireland will only have one chance of getting there, Peamount have done very well in trying to get there. And ultimately in Germany we may have only one player competing at the Champions League level. And we may have a chance with Glasgow and Arsenal to also qualify with some of our players.”

And Pauw also warned that the nascent development of the domestic league here could be detrimentally affected, as its leading emerging stars seek to move overseas in order to attain competition at a higher level.

“In principle, they (FIFA and UEFA) don’t care about their second tier. And we need to look closely at it. I’m going to contact FIFA about it.

“Especially if there are more Champions League weeks, second-tier countries might be able to play in that window.

“Otherwise the leading countries will run away from the second tier. And it will kill our game. FIFA has a responsibility to create those opportunities.

“Because the game will suffer. I’m not advocating players leaving this country but if they can’t play to a high level internationally except for a handful of times a year, they will leave and go elsewhere.

“If players are leaving that will kill the domestic game too. FIFA must take care of the domestic development of the league.

“Part of that is players leaving. FIFA are responsible for that too because the league must be an important part of the game in Ireland.”

Niamh Reid-Burke (retired), Harriet Scott (exams), Megan Campbell, Clare Shine, Leanne Kiernan (injured), Julie-Ann Russell, Nicole Douglas (Covid restrictions) are all unavailable for the forthcoming double-header.

DLR Waves goalkeeper Eve Badana will join the squad for sessions at the FAI National Training Centre.

There are also invites extended to the quartet of defender Florence Gamby (London Bees), midfielders Lily Agg (London City Lionesses) and Emily Murphy (Birmingham City), and forward Aoife Colvill (Glasgow City), who are eligible to declare for Ireland but will not be part of the match-day squad for this camp.

Saoirse Noonan has not made the cut, despite notching a brace as Noel King’s Shelbourne side advanced his self-confessed title challenge with a 3-0 win away to her former side Cork City on Saturday that sees the Dubliners top the Women’s National League standings.

Emile Whelan had opened the scoring after an error from home net-minder Abby McCarthy.

Wexford Youths struggled in a 1-1 draw away to DLR Waves, reliant on a 69th-minute equaliser from Kylie Murphy, set up by teenager Ellen Molloy, which cancelled out Ciara McManus’ opener.

Galway beat Bohs 3-1 while Athlone Town and Treaty United shared the points in a rip-roaring six-goal thriller in the midlands.


SSE AIRTRICITY NATIONAL LEAGUE

Athlone Town 3 Treaty United 3; Cork City 0 Shelbourne 3; DLR Waves 1 Wexford Youths 1; Galway WFC 3 Bohemians 1.


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