Options open for Roma McLaughlin as she contemplates entering NWSL draft

Central Connecticut State star contemplating playing future after final year at university

The paltry earning power of female soccer players does make the FAI’s switch to equal match fees, for all senior internationals, no small gesture.

It meant next to nothing financially for Séamus Coleman, who was a major driver behind the scenes, and his teammates to take a reduction from €2,500 per Ireland cap to reportedly €1,500.

If this included all nine matches in 2021, active members of Katie McCabe’s squad could bank up to €13,500.

Again, peanuts to the male professional footballer, but the increased payment offers genuine assistance to Irish women forced to globe hop from scholarships in the US, until they roll the dice in the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) draft or seek a short term deal at clubs like Birmingham City, that currently houses seven Irish players despite having the lowest budget in the Women's Super League (WSL) in England (Birmingham are still struggling to find their women a pitch to train on, a table to eat at and a gym to workout in).


"I think I need to find myself an agent," said Roma McLaughlin, the 23-year-old Donegal native who is a senior at Central Connecticut State University. "I will chat with all the girls [in Ireland camp] and see what is best for me because obviously they are all going through it."

It seems like they ‘go through it’ every other summer. For many, the one year contract remains in vogue.

Despite McLaughlin’s stellar collegiate career – the midfielder was named on the 2019 All-America team – there is no guarantee that a US franchise will snap her up.

“I would love that if the opportunity arose but it is a competitive system coming out of college. There are a lot of players, a lot of options [for the teams, not the athletes].

“There is a draft in the next month and I have to decide if I am going to enter that or not.

“When my student visa expires,” she added, “I have three months to get out of the country.”

The alternative is a move to Europe where she would be closer to home and family. But McLaughlin understands the fickleness of this fledgling professional sport and she will go where the opportunity arises, because the nomadic life is a female footballer’s very existence.

“I would honestly be open to anything. I want to be closer to home but I do love America, so either of the two.”

Even elite Irish talent like McCabe at Arsenal and Denise O’Sullivan at North Carolina Courage cannot command salaries that will set them up for life. Far from it.

The highest paid female footballer appears to be Australia's Sam Kerr, with her Chelsea deal being worth around €1 million over two years but this pales in comparison to what Cristiano Ronaldo earns in a week.

The chasm between male and female wages is easier to digest when the average annual salaries in the WSL (€40,000) and NWSL (€47,000) are highlighted.

Endorsements matter to those who can get them. That is why McCabe is a ‘Whoop athlete’ this week, prompting her specific nutrition on game day.

"Katie is in flying form, getting player of the game nearly every game," said Éabha O'Mahony, the Boston College student who is the Ireland skipper's understudy at left wingback. "She's someone everyone looks up to. Learning, watching what she does daily, it's great."

Equal pay, which was a clever PR exercise that cost the FAI nothing, along with the Sky sponsorship deal, whilst both important, are tiny steps in the process of chiselling out a pro career.

"My second year in Shelbourne I was in college in Carlow," McLaughlin explained. "I did the FÁS course in Dublin and then I did the [football] course in Carlow, so that was a bit easier.

“Previous years, when I was 16, I was playing for Peamount and that was a difficult period where I was travelling down for games and then travelling back home to Greencastle in Donegal.”

That’s a 600 kilometre weekly round trip.

“It wasn’t easy. My parents had to drive me. And I still don’t even drive myself.”

So they were better off with you in Connecticut?

“It did make it a bit easier on my parents when I went to America!” she laughed. “But going to America for four years has helped me as a player and a person. I am glad I got the call to come back into [the Ireland squad] this summer.”

Because it doubles up as a shop window.