McCabe accepts FAI doing their best to recruit Bell’s successor
Caretaker boss O’Connor in charge for Republic’s European Championship opener
Katie McCabe was at Tallaght Stadium for the official launch of Boots Ireland’s three-year sponsorship of the Republic of Ireland women’s side. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho
Arsenal midfielder Katie McCabe says that she and the other members of the Irish squad are content to start their European Championship qualifying campaign against Montenegro on Tuesday week under caretaker manager Tom O’Connor as they accept the FAI is doing its best to recruit the right successor for Colin Bell.
Dave Connell was the early favourite to take over after Bell’s departure for Huddersfield Town where he took on the role of assistant head coach. Bell’s future at the club is hugely uncertain just six weeks on, though, after the sacking of Jan Siewert while Connell’s ambitions suffered a major setback when Megan Campbell suggested that an internal appointment would be seen as a backward step by the players.
Speaking at the launch of a three-year sponsorship of the Irish team by Boots, McCabe, who played underage sides successfully managed by Connell, maintains that she would have no problem with the next manager coming from within the ranks of Abbotstown but added she is happy with the way the association is attempting to replace Bell.
That process is still ongoing but the conclusion of second interviews has apparently yielded a preferred candidate albeit after a number of others, including Maren Meinert, coach of the German Under-20 side, apparently turned the role down.
“Obviously Colin’s departure was unfortunate,” says the Dubliner. “The timing of it wasn’t great but in terms of getting a new manager, Tom took the American camp and he will be caretaker for the Montenegro camp as well. I know the FAI are doing all that they can to find the right candidate for the job.
“I think we are all confident in Tom,” she continues.
“Obviously he was assistant manager with Colin over the last few years so he knows the structure of the team, how to get the best out of players. I think not changing the environment too much is important especially going into a European campaign so, yeah, I’m confident in Tom taking us for the Montenegro game.”
McCabe is upbeat about the team’s prospects despite the presence of Germany in Ireland’s group. Ireland were well beaten by the USA is their recent friendly with the world champions but McCabe said she could sense the ongoing progress being made by the team with the Irish coping with their opponents’ physically for the first time, she says, in the three games against the Americans in which she has been involved.
With the three best second-placed teams qualifying automatically and the others having the opportunity to progress to the finals through play-offs, the 23-year-old feels the side is in with a real shout of making it to a major tournament for the very first time.
“We obviously have another tough group now in Germany, Ukraine, Greece and Montenegro but [with the competition structure] there’s that little bit extra of a chance. And having more players playing over in England, playing in a professional environment will definitely help us get over the line. I’m confident and I know the girls are too. We will take it one game at a time but hopefully we can get to England 2021.”
McCabe says the reaction to her involvement in a Pride campaign backed by Aviva a couple of months back has generated a universally positive reaction.
The player, who announced publicly that she is a relationship with fellow Ireland international Ruesha Littlejohn, says she didn’t have any hesitation about doing something she hopes might help others but acknowledges that women’s football seems to be more accepting of gay players than the men’s game.
“I’ve never been in the men’s game to kind of compare but in the women’s game, everything’s just chilled. I don’t know what it is with the men and people coming out, or why people are so obsessed about it.
“Male footballers are in the public domain all the time and so maybe they just want to keep themselves to themselves. And that’s totally up to them; each to their own. But in terms of women’s football, you don’t have to come in and tell everyone your sexuality. You’re just accepted for who you are and I think that’s the way it should be in men’s or women’s football.”