Ireland women’s team hold talks in wake of US abuse allegations

Accusations of sexual coercion against ex-North Carolina Courage boss Paul Riley

Republic of Ireland captain Katie McCabe has led team-mates in a private discussion surrounding accusations of abuse and sexual coercion against former North Carolina Courage manager Paul Riley.

Diane Caldwell and Denise O'Sullivan, key veterans in the Irish squad preparing for their opening World Cup qualifier against Sweden on Thursday at Tallaght stadium, were coached by Riley until he was fired by NC Courage on September 30th following "very serious allegations of misconduct", which the 58-year-old has denied.

“Ever since the allegations have come out I think they have shocked the world,” said McCabe at the FAI announcement of Cadbury as an official partner of the women’s national team. “It really is terrible to see but I think what is most admirable now is the solidarity that is shown within the women’s game, with players and staff and organisations.

“Since it came out, we were originally at our clubs, and the support Arsenal have shown us has been fantastic. Since coming in [to the Ireland camp] the support has been there within our organisation here too.”


That concern for the safety of female Irish internationals has become part of the media’s line of inquiry shows where women’s soccer stands.

“It is quite raw given we have two current players that have been coached under the accused,” McCabe continued. “So, obviously, it is one to be cautious about because of how raw things are still, but one we need to do in the correct manner. We will be touching upon it as a collective.

“Of course, we have fantastic support around us, whether that is with our staff, our doctors, we have people that we can talk to.

“There are different organisations with different things. If you look at the WSL [women’s super league] there is the PFA, [and] we got safeguarding at our clubs.

“I think it is about making sure players know they have somewhere to go if they need to talk. It might not have happened to them but the conversation topic might affect them. It’s about people knowing they have the right information.”

Alleged abuse

One issue the Ireland squad will consider discussing with their Swedish counterparts is whether to continue the protests seen across club leagues, including the NWSL in the US and WSL in England.

“We haven’t decided whether or not to do it, but you saw the pictures that went around that weekend,” said McCabe. “We did it ourselves with Everton and on a stage like Sky Sports it shows awareness and people are asking, ‘why are they doing this?’ I think it opens people’s minds, so I think it is important, but as a team it is not something we have decided upon yet.”

Megan Connolly, the fit again Brighton attacker, who spent four years at Florida State, commended Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim for speaking to the Athletic in such detail about Riley's alleged abuse.

“Massive bravery and courage for the girls to step out and talk about it,” said Connolly, “to try and initiate change and make a difference, and make the future better for everyone coming”.

Ireland manager Vera Pauw, who stated last Friday that she has encountered abuse in every country and at every club where she has worked, is "completely open" to these conversations happening at the team hotel in Castleknock, adding that it is "a players discussion".

Pauw has called up Donegal native Roma McLaughlin to replace Kyra Carusa, who was injured playing for Danish club KB Koge.

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent