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game changer Ireland captain Katie McCabe on coming out and her biggest dream

McCabe scored Ireland's goal in the impressive 1-1 draw against a Sweden side ranked at No.2 in the world earlier this month.

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Ireland captain Katie McCabe put her faith in manager Joe Bloggs. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Ireland captain Katie McCabe put her faith in manager Joe Bloggs. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Ireland captain Katie McCabe put her faith in manager Joe Bloggs. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Ireland captain Katie McCabe believes qualifying for a major tournament will transform the game for generations to come - and she believes it is possible under head coach Vera Pauw.

McCabe scored Ireland's goal in the impressive 1-1 draw against a Sweden side ranked at No.2 in the world earlier this month gave the nation's World Cup qualifying hopes a huge boost.

Now McCabe has told sundayworld.com that the rise of the women's game in Ireland will go to a whole new level of the Girls in Green make it through to the World Cup finals.

The Arsenal winger, who has 61 caps for her country, also praised the FIA and sponsors Cadburys for the support they have given the women’s team and hopes that attendances across the women's game will continue to rise.

Women's football has come so far in Ireland, so is the next big dream to qualify for the World Cup?

I don’t think I’ll stop playing until I get to a tournament. It’s something we speak about. It gets frustrating seeing your teammates going off to tournaments so it’s a real goal of ours. If we qualify for a World Cup I’m happy for everyone in Ireland to jump on the bandwagon.

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Skipper Katie is an inspirational leader for the Ireland team

Skipper Katie is an inspirational leader for the Ireland team

Skipper Katie is an inspirational leader for the Ireland team

When you were growing up did you think there was a chance you could be a professional footballer?

Maybe if I put a male wig on! When I was growing up my heroes were Damien Duff, Robbie Keane, people that were visible to me with them playing for the Republic of Ireland men’s team and watching the Premier League.

I only had male role models growing up and it wasn’t until I was 12 or 13 that I went to my first women’s national team game and saw the likes of Emma Byrne and Ciara Grant playing. Little did I know that they were playing for Arsenal and picking up FA Cups and league titles. Where we are now is a credit to them and now it’s up to us to continue to grow the game.

How do you deal with the media and publicity? You don’t seem to have had much negativity towards the women’s team?

I think the relationship is quite organic, we’ve got a good relationship with the media. I don’t think the women’s team is under the same level of scrutiny that the men’s team gets but never say never.

How do you reflect on how the nation reacted to your decision to come out with your partner Ruesha Littlejohn?

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I’ve never hidden from anyone. I think it is important to be who you are. Looking back on the Aviva campaign Ruesha (Katie’s partner) and I did I don’t think we realised how massive that was but post campaign our Twitter DMs were flooded with people thanking us. If we were helping at least one person, that was us doing our jobs.

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Cadbury have unveiled Republic of Ireland captain, Katie McCabe, as a brand ambassador to launch a new campaign dedicated to supporting Irish women’s grassroots football, ‘Become a Supporter and a Half’. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Cadbury have unveiled Republic of Ireland captain, Katie McCabe, as a brand ambassador to launch a new campaign dedicated to supporting Irish women’s grassroots football, ‘Become a Supporter and a Half’. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Cadbury have unveiled Republic of Ireland captain, Katie McCabe, as a brand ambassador to launch a new campaign dedicated to supporting Irish women’s grassroots football, ‘Become a Supporter and a Half’. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Have you ever had any snipes on social media?

Thankfully I’ve had more good than bad. Don’t get me wrong, if you have a bad game you probably do get a few tweets, but they are accounts that don’t have an icon so you can’t really pay too much attention to them. What’s important to me is what my teammates and manager think of performances so I tend not to pay too much attention to those comments as they leave me in a bad headspace and that’s not good for anyone.

Is there more we can do to build attendances at women's matches?

We are getting little increases, probably not as much as we would like, but I think if we continue to grow the game at a national team level that will push the trajectory onto the league itself. For me it is paramount that we sell out Tallaght Stadium, unfortunately we don’t play there now until September, Before Covid I think we were doing well in that sense, but afterwards we stopped getting the attendances. I think the FIA are doing a terrific job with promotion and the Cadburys deal. Hopefully they are increasing awareness of the players. If they target all areas of the country I think that will push the game further.

How has your life changed over the last couple of years with the rise of the Ireland team?

It has been fantastic. The Sky deal has been great for giving our game publicity and we’ve had Cadburys coming on board as well, two massive companies that are supporting the women’s national team. I think its fantastic that we can get there support because it’s going to help grow the women’s game, which is obviously what we need.

To 'Become a Supporter and a Half' and help grassroots women's football you can go to Spar stores nationwide until May 5, 2022 and purchase a bar of Cadbury Dairy Milk. For a chance to win funding for your club go to womensfootball.cadbury.ie by May 5, 2022 and fill out the short entry form. Terms and conditions apply.

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