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wig and a prayer Ireland soccer skipper jokes she considered wearing a male wig to carve out career

"All my heroes when I was a kid were male players like Damien Duff, Robbie Keane and the people that were visible to me playing for the Republic of Ireland men's team and watching the Premier League. I always loved Duffer and Keano"

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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

IRELAND captain Katie McCabe admits she thought she might have 'put a male wig on' to carve out a career in football as she opened up on her decision to make her private life public to help others.

McCabe leads from the front in a team that is inspiring a new generation of young girls entering the game.

Yet in an exclusive interview with the Sunday World, McCabe has revealed she had no female heroes to look up to when she was breaking into the game, with her successful career taking her by surprise.

"When I was growing up, I didn't think I could have a career in football unless I put a male wig on," McCabe said with a smile at a Cadbury's event.

"All my heroes when I was a kid were male players like Damien Duff, Robbie Keane and the people that were visible to me playing for the Republic of Ireland men's team and watching the Premier League. I always loved Duffer and Keano.

"It wasn't until I was 12 or 13 that I went to my first women's national team game in Inchicore and saw the likes of Emma Byrne and Ciara Grant playing.

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Katie revealed her relationship with Ruesha

Katie revealed her relationship with Ruesha

Katie revealed her relationship with Ruesha

"Little did I know that they were playing for Arsenal and picking up FA Cups and league titles. At the time, it was hard to follow them and what they were doing, but everything has changed for women's football in this country now.

"Where we are now is a credit to the likes of Emma and Ciara and now it's up to us to continue to grow the game for the next generation."

McCabe is not just a leader on the field, as her decision to go public about her relationship with partner Ruesha Littlejohn brought a wave of support she admits may not have been evident if she has made such a statement in years gone by.

"I've never hidden from anyone," continues Dubliner Katie. "I think it is important to be who you are and that's why I didn't see it as a big deal to come out with my partner Ruesha.

"Looking back on the day I did the story at the Aviva Stadium with Ruesha, coming out in the way we did, I don't think we realised how massive that was.

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"After doing that press day, our Twitter DMs were flooded with people thanking us for using our platform to create that change. If we were helping at least one person, we did a good thing.

"Everyone should be happy in their own skin, whoever they are. Ruesha and I don't have anything to hide and we weren't worried if people didn't like our relationship, but the reaction has been all positive.

"It shows how far Ireland has come as a country because if this was 20 years ago, I don't think people would have liked it, but as a country and a nation we are moving forward.

"The referendum on same-sex marriages in 2015 was a massive moment for Ireland and I feel like we have moved on even more since then and will continue to do so."

Katie admits she has been on the end of negative social media comments that are hard to ignore, but she insists the only judgements she concerns herself with are that of her manager and team-mates.

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Katie scored in Tuesday's big qualifier

Katie scored in Tuesday's big qualifier

Katie scored in Tuesday's big qualifier

"When you have a bad game, there will always be comments on Twitter that you would rather not get," she admits.

"If you spend too long worrying about it, then you would not be in a very good headspace, so I tend to try and skip over them and look at the more positive comments.

"At the end of the day, the only judgement that matters is that of my manager and the players I am playing with."

McCabe admits she is determined to do all she can to drive Ireland into a major international tournament before her career comes to an end and she believes head coach Vera Pauw has the squad to qualify for the 2023 World Cup finals.

"I don't think I'll stop playing football until I get to a tournament, that's how I feel now," added 26-year-old McCabe, who scored in Ireland's 1-1 draw in our opening World Cup qualifier against Sweden last Tuesday.

"It's something we speak about. It gets frustrating seeing your teammates going off to tournaments so it's a real goal of ours.

"I feel like we are close. We have a team that is getting incredible backing from everyone in Ireland and having companies like Cadbury's behind us adds to that.

"If we qualify for a World Cup, I'm happy for everyone in Ireland to jump on the bandwagon. Let's hope that happens one day soon."

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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