Girls in Green welcomed home after World Cup: ‘We want to inspire the next generation’

‘We want to push on and make major tournaments a regular thing,’ says captain Katie McCabe

Thousands of people gathered on Dublin’s O’Connell Street on Thursday evening to welcome home the Irish women’s football team after their World Cup campaign in Australia.

The size of the crowd - estimated at 8,000-strong by the organisers - left the Irish players “speechless,” said captain Katie McCabe, who thanked fans for all their support during the tournament. “Never in all our wildest dreams did we think it was possible to be stood here on O’Connell Street after a World Cup,” she said. “It’s incredible.”

The tournament in Australia was a first major event for the Irish women’s team. The side departed at the group stages after defeats to Australia and Canada and a goalless draw with Nigeria.

The early exit did not dampen the mood of those who attended the homecoming in Dublin. “We’re so proud of them,” said Sophia Kenna, who was present alongside Jada O’Connor, Grace Donegan, Rose Kavanagh, Abbie Halpin and Taylor O’Neill. The group all play U11s football in Kilnamanagh, the same Tallaght club where McCabe once played.


“It’s inspiring,” they said of seeing someone from their area play at a World Cup.

“Throughout our whole journey to this World Cup, fans have been at the forefront,” McCabe told the crowd. “We want to inspire the next generation, when we play in Tallaght or when we stop for selfies. It’s important to us as a team to leave a legacy.

“We hope we did the nation proud.”

Referencing Ireland’s next game, a friendly versus Northern Ireland at the Aviva Stadium in September, McCabe urged the crowd to buy a ticket before asking for their support to continue when Ireland embark on their qualifying campaign for Euro 2025.

“We’re only just getting started,” she said. “We have a taste for it now, we have experience of the demands of a World Cup. We want to push on and make major tournaments a regular thing.”

Ireland manager Vera Pauw said: “We’ve shown the world we’re coming. The gap between the top nations and Ireland is getting closer. That was the biggest event for women in the world, and we’re in the top nations in the world.”

Speaking of the effect Ireland’s participation would have for women’s sport, Pauw recounted a memory from her own playing days. “Someone said: ‘It’s such a shame, such nice girls playing football.’ Now it’s cool to play football, isn’t it?”

When shown a replay of her goal versus Canada, Ireland’s first at a World Cup and the only one they netted in the tournament, McCabe joked that she didn’t mean to steer her corner goalward. “That was meant for Louise Quinn’s head,” she said. “To share that moment with the girls was special.”

Courtney Brosnan, the Irish goalkeeper, was told that her display inspired young girls to want to play in her position. “Seeing the progress and the maturity of this group, how we’ve grown the past few years, it’s a credit to every individual and how hard we’ve worked.

“It’s amazing to inspire young girls, the next generation of goalkeepers. It means a lot.”

After Pauw, her backroom staff and the squad were introduced to the crowd, the players posed for an on-stage selfie with fans behind them. Proceedings were ended by Amber Barrett, who scored the goal that sent Ireland to the World Cup last October, serenading the crowd with a rendition of Wild Rover.

Nathan Johns

Nathan Johns

Nathan Johns is an Irish Times journalist