Expectations adjusted, Katie McCabe hopes to lead Ireland to shock win over Germany

'You don’t want to go into a match wanting to lose or draw, so that's probably why I said it at the time'
Expectations adjusted, Katie McCabe hopes to lead Ireland to shock win over Germany

Katie McCabe during a Republic of Ireland Women training session earlier this week at the FAI National Training Centre in Abbotstown. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Saturday marks the three-year anniversary of Katie McCabe’s favourite moment as Ireland captain.

New boss Colin Bell had made the surprise decision to overlook Niamh Fahey and Diane Caldwell for his choice of successor to the retired Emma Byrne.

McCabe, then just 21, seemed to take the responsibility of the armband in her stride. The Arsenal flanker led by example in the wins over Northern Ireland and Slovakia to kick-start Ireland’s World Cup qualifying bid.

Then, in Nijmegen against the newly-crowned European champions Netherlands, a defensive masterclass eked out a scoreless draw.

McCabe took great pleasure at the final whistle in goading the sell-out 12,000 crowd expecting to see a hatful of goals from the Dutch.

That night, however, would be the nearest Ireland came to competing with the big guns. Netherlands put the record straight in the return fixture at Tallaght six months later before back-to-back defeats against top seeds Norway ended their qualification quest.

Confidence was high that the major tournament wait would end when Ireland drew one of the weaker second seeds, Ukraine, for this Euro campaign.

A giddy McCabe even got carried away a bit on the eve of the opener against Montenegro by declaring their intention to finish first above Germany.

Reality soon dawned as Ireland edged out a Ukrainian side 3-2 that Germany throttled 8-0 home and away.

The eight-times champions come to Tallaght next Tuesday with top spot in the group already bagged and possessing a perfect record that Ireland need to smash for their play-off hopes to be redeemed.

“The thinking behind that statement is that you want to win every game,” said McCabe, when reflecting on her grand prediction.

“You don’t want to go into a match wanting to lose or draw, so that's probably why I said it at the time.

“But now being realistic, we know the position each country is in the table. It’s about having the game-plan and organisation to beat them.”

That improbable victory wouldn’t be necessary had Ireland avoided the 1-0 defeat they suffered in Ukraine last month.

Blame

The skipper took her share of the blame for missing a penalty in Kiev but the spotlight back home from ex-international pundits was on the delay in manager Vera Pauw making changes.

Striker Amber Barrett admitted this week it was difficult making an impact when introduced just four minutes from full-time.

“Hindsight is a great thing,” noted McCabe. “That was a stressed scenario, so Vera and (her assistant) Eileen Gleeson could see what was best.

“I’m not going to say whether it was right or not. They made those decisions based on hoping to get a result for the team.

“Of course, you sit and reflect and review each game, you see if you can improve on anything, and that’s what we’ve done.

Hopefully we can learn from those…I wouldn’t say mistakes, just learn from different scenarios...for the future.

“It’s been a learning curve for me. Getting the captaincy at 21 wasn’t something I expected but it was something I took with both hands.

“You don’t get everything right at the start and I’m probably not getting everything right now but I’ve had great support from my team-mates.”

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