By Dave Donnelly
KATIE McCabe expressed her pride at earning cap number 50 for Ireland as Vera Pauw’s side were unlucky to come out the wrong side of a 1-0 scoreline to Euros-bound Belgium.
The Kilnamanagh native captained her country for the 26th time as Ireland rounded off a pair of friendlies with narrow defeats to Denmark, in Tallaght, and the Belgians in Brussels.
The 25-year-old McCabe, who plies her trade in the English Super League with Arsenal, was unrewarded following another positive performance against higher-ranked opposition.
She was denied a penalty in the second half of the defeat at Heysel Stadium, having rattled the bar with a stunning effort in Thursday’s defeat to Denmark on home soil.
“I’m very proud to reach 50 senior caps with the Republic of Ireland. I cannot describe the pride that I have in representing my country and it is something that I will never take for granted.
“Of course, I have to thank all of the people who helped me to reach this point. The different managers – Sue Ronan, Colin Bell, Tom O’Connor and Vera Pauw – all of the backroom staff through the years.
“Every one of my team-mates, past and present, and the Irish supporters have been incredible throughout my international career to date.
“I’d also like to pay tribute to all of the coaches who have been a positive influence on my development, from grassroots through to the Women’s National League and underage international teams.
“It’s important to never forget the confidence that they had in me long before I ever made it to senior level.
“Even though 50 caps is a significant milestone, I feel like I have so much more to give to the Ireland senior team.”
McCabe, who normally plays in a more attacking role for the Girls in Green, led from left wing-back in an experimental Irish side.
Pauw changed up the formation for her first friendly games in charge of the Irish side, having narrowly missed out on qualification to the Euros to Germany and Ukraine.
American-born striker Kyra Carusa was handed her debut against Belgium in a line-up that saw seven changes from the defeat to Denmark.
Just as they had against Denmark, Ireland fell behind to an early goal as De Caigny beat keeper Courtney Brosnan to Laura De Neve’s free kick and poked the ball into the empty net.
The Belgians dominated possession for most of the game but Ireland looked a threat on the counter, with former Peamount United striker Heather Payne a constant threat.
Substitutes Rianna Jarrett and Ruesha Littlejohn, whose goalbound free kick was brilliantly tipped away by Belgium keeper Justien Odeurs, had chances to level for Ireland.
The Girls in Green are lining up additional friendlies for the summer ahead of the beginning of the World Cup qualifiers in September.
The group stage draw will take place in Switzerland on April 30, and McCabe has targeted the games as an opportunity to qualify for Ireland’s first-ever major championships.
“We will continue with our preparations for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup and that is something that really motivates me.
“Being part of the first Ireland team to qualify for a major tournament is the dream that I want to achieve more than anything else.”
PHOTO – Republic of Ireland captain Katie McCabe is presented with her 50th Cap after the women’s international friendly match between Belgium and Republic of Ireland at King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels, Belgium.
Photo by David Catry/Sportsfile
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