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Vera Pauw after tonight's game. Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Pauw says she calls the shots after captain McCabe's intervention

Ireland drew 0-0 with Nigeria as they exited the World Cup.

VERA PAUW SAID she made the decisions after skipper Katie McCabe pleaded for substitutions to be made in the second half of Ireland’s 0-0 draw with Nigeria on Monday at the Women’s World Cup.

McCabe appeared to ask Pauw to “freshen it up” around the 70-minute mark and the manager confirmed the exchange with the Arsenal star — “that she wanted fresh legs, on her side” — afterwards. 

Speaking after the stalemate at Brisbane Stadium, Pauw told her press conference:

“Why would we change?

“If Katie McCabe says that she wants a change, that doesn’t mean… she’s not the coach yeah. Everybody was doing so well. So I said, ‘What do you want, Katie, taking the best player off?’”

McCabe tweeted a zipped mouth emoji afterwards.

Screen Shot 2023-07-31 at 23.45.28

“A player is allowed to be emotional, is allowed to say that, it’s fine,” Pauw added. “But during the game, I step back and analyse and make changes that are necessary.”

“A player doesn’t ask and you refuse. A player can ask always, but as a coach it’s not a refusal, as a coach you make decisions on what is necessary. A player can say anything to the coach, at least to me.”

Pauw, who introduced Abbie Larkin for Lily Agg and Marissa Sheva for Heather Payne in the 83rd minute, explained why she didn’t make the change McCabe was hinting at.

“Because everybody was doing so well. Sinead Farrelly was arguably the best player on the pitch at that moment, so I was not prepared to take the best player off.”

“Do you want to know why we made the changes? I am happy to explain that,” she continued. “We had brought on Abbie Larkin and Marissa Sheva. Marissa to have the power forward at the end of the game, when we needed pace over there. That was, I think, a brave decision, because she has only played a little spell, but she brought that into the game and into the training sessions.

“We worked with video with her so that she could play that role. And Abbie Larkin, we played there because there were more and more spaces in between those lines, with Denise then being able to switch play anymore. Again, the pressure forward was starting to lack. That change paid off because immediately from the start she understood her role, we gave her that message, that was why she played there, to constantly change the play, and she did that. It led to more pressure for us. I need to see it back, but it led to more pressure.”

Ireland were already out of the World Cup but they at least go home from their debut at the tournament with a point.

Pauw said she was not worried about her position amidst heightening talk surrounding her future.

“I don’t feel this is my last game just because we are going home from the World Cup,” she said, before responding to a follow-on question about her attendance at Thursday’s homecoming in Dublin City centre.

“Why would I not be at the homecoming? I’ll go back with my team. Otherwise we would have stayed here during the World Cup.”

Later asked if she was hopeful of landing a new contract, she added: “I’ve been very clear, haven’t I, so I don’t need to answer that.”

katie-mccabe McCabe and Pauw during the game. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

Assessing the tournament overall, Pauw said Irish women’s football could take a lot of positives, despite their record of two losses and a draw.

“I think we can be extremely proud of ourselves. We’ve lost a game through, it was a penalty kick, but it was a very unlucky penalty kick, it wasn’t even a chance, an own goal, and now zero-zero against Nigeria who I rated as a top ten nation.

“They only are lower ranked because of the ranking system, not because of their level of play or performances. We’ve seen that against Australia, they hammered Australia. With the way they play we could get the angle out of their play. The gameplan was related to the spaces they left to eliminate their strength, and the players were fantastic in the way they have done that.”

“I think we’ve been very unlucky,” she added. “We’ve done fantastically and the players have grown from very good players, very talented players to international top players.

“Those weeks that we’ve prepared, and the games themselves, have pushed the level of the whole team. The players will notice that in the future, they’ll notice it even in their contracts.

“I think they will get many more opportunities and Irish kids will see that they can achieve things and be here.”

On Australia’s 4-0 win over Canada, as the co-hosts and Super Falcons progressed, Pauw concluded:

“It’s a weird group, eh, with all the results. I have not seen that game, of course. I was not surprised because it was the last moment and I know how powerful Australia is. I don’t know what happened to Canada and what made that change. I need to see the game. But congratulations to Australia.” 

– © AFP 2023, additional reporting from Emma Duffy in Brisbane

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