‘We are Irish. We are going to fight to the very end’

Pauw and Republic squad thrilled with resilient display against world-class Swedes

Perspective is everything. Republic of Ireland manager Vera Pauw beams with pride following a historic result in Gothenburg while the skipper is wonderfully grumpy about leaving two points out on the Gamla Ullevi grass.

“Ten more minutes and we could have got the three points,” claimed Katie McCabe.

And who is going to challenge the Arsenal winger after a performance that she insists is natural to anyone, male or female, wearing the green jersey?

“We love to defend, we love the hard work, you are kind of born with it as an Irish player,” McCabe insisted in a week when memories of parents complaining about ‘the girl’ winning the boys player of the year was revisited.


“Nobody on the outside [expected us to get a result] but on the inside we back ourselves for everything,” said Megan Connolly, a full-time midfielder living her best life at a centre-half against the most ruthless attackers imaginable.

“We are Irish,” went Connolly. “We are going to fight to the very end. We leave everything on the pitch so we can accept the result. Tonight we did that.

“They had a bit of quality and it showed when they got the equaliser.”

So gifted is Kosovre Asllani that the Real Madrid striker controlled a bullet cross in the 79th minute to deny a win on the road that would surpass anything done by any Ireland team in qualification duels over the past 101 years.

“Sweden were relentless,” McCabe conceded. “They hit the bar. We had some world-class saves from our keeper. They deserved the draw because they were at us for 90 minutes plus. Our target was not to lose a game and to get a point away from home against the second-best team in the world, I’ll take that.”

Pauw is still smiling from ear to ear.

“The proudest one in the room,” said the Dutch coach. “I have joked a bit about ‘the tigers,’ but they are. You’ve seen again tonight. Nobody wins easy from us and that starts with the absolute passion of these players, to be able to give up everything for their country.

“That’s contagious, and it’s contagious to the nation, I hope. It is contagious to the staff and I hope that we can add what they need so that they can go further and further and further. Because this team deserves it. If there’s one team in the world that deserves the next step, then it’s this team.”

McCabe shrugged before calming the room with the words that can only belong to a leader.

Another step

“It is just another step in the direction we want to go towards qualification [for the 2023 World Cup].”

That is worth remembering. Here lies a thrilling draw to sit beside the 2017 draw in the Netherlands but now they must brush past Georgia in June before Finland comes to Tallaght (not the Aviva) before the campaign ends in Slovakia.

Ireland’s precious point in Gothenburg, and certain win in Georgia, makes them frontrunners in what has become a two-way scrap with the Finns to make the play-offs as Group A runners-up.

So the margin for error remains razor thin. Ireland goalkeeper Courtney Brosnan knows a little about that.

“It was a brave decision from the team and the staff to pick Courtney because she hasn’t got a lot of playing time,” said Pauw of the Everton reserve goalkeeper. “Megan Walsh had Covid last week and while she had recovered she wasn’t back to her old self.

“We went for the keeper who was the sharpest. She responded to that decision tremendously. She made crazy saves and in between she constantly worked with her defenders.”

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent