A 5-0 defeat by England at Dalymount Park back in May 1981 made it a day to forget for the Republic of Ireland’s women’s team. For a 22-year-old Dubliner who came on to make her senior international debut that day, though, it was one she would never forget.
“R Guerin for D McGarry, 66 mins,” as her name appeared in The Irish Times’s report on the game.
R for Ronnie, as she was known to her friends. For the rest of us, she was Veronica Guerin, the Sunday Independent investigative journalist who was murdered, at the age of 36, in 1996.
Now, several of her former team-mates are urging the Football Association of Ireland to award a posthumous commemorative cap to Guerin, one that would be presented to her son Cathal Turley, who was just six years old when his mother died.
“I think that would be an amazing gesture if it were to happen,” he told The Irish Times on Thursday. “I am the proud father to a little girl now and my dream is to make sure she grows up knowing how special both her grandmothers were.”
There’s been no little controversy about the FAI’s plans to award every woman who played for Ireland a commemorative cap before this Saturday’s game against Northern Ireland at the Aviva Stadium, several of the invitees complaining that there won’t be enough caps to go around on the day, that there will be no reception for the players, nor will they be presented to the crowd on the pitch.
Helena Stapleton is furious about it all, but her chief focus for now is on getting her former team-mate and friend honoured. The former international, who was Guerin’s bridesmaid at her wedding to Graham Turley, has been in contact with the FAI on the matter, and has agreed to their request that she help them make contact with Cathal Turley.
“It would mean as much to me to see Veronica get her cap as it would for me getting my own,” said Stapleton, a sister of former Ireland striker Frank. “She was a brilliant midfielder. She could pass a ball the length of the pitch and it would just drop at your feet. She would have won more than one cap if it all hadn’t been so primitive for the women’s team back then. We thought things had changed, I’m not so sure.
“She was never afraid on the football pitch, never, and that was the theme through her whole life. I’d love her to be here so we could go and get these caps together. We would both be made-up over that.”