Ever-present McCabe a real leader in a year of ups and downs
It was, to put it mildly, an eventful year for the Republic of Ireland football squad, one they’re unlikely to forget in any great hurry. It began with the appointment of a new coach, followed by that very public dispute with the FAI over pay and conditions, before concluding with their most encouraging ever start to a qualifying campaign for a major tournament, their last outing an outstanding draw away to European champions the Netherlands.
There was, then, rarely a dull moment.
When they were drawn in a World Cup qualifying group that included the Dutch and Norway, ranked 19 places above them at 14, the prospects of making it to the 2019 finals in France would have looked remote.
And, realistically, they’re still a long shot for qualification, with three of their five remaining group games against the Norwegians (home and away) and the Netherlands (home), but they’ve well and truly put themselves in the mix after taking seven points from their opening three games, starting with 2-0 away wins over Northern Ireland and Slovakia.
The draw in the Netherlands was particularly impressive in light of the fact that the team was without three of its most experienced players – Megan Campbell, Áine O’Gorman and Stephanie Roche – but they still managed to keep the Dutch scoreless, while creating a few decent chances on the break as well.
When Colin Bell took over as coach one of his first tasks was to tighten up the defence - with a remarkable eight clean sheets
from their 10 games in 2017, it’s mission accomplished on that front, so far at least. And a settled defence has been largely to thank for that dramatic improvement, with Louise Quinn, Diane Caldwell and Harriet Scott playing all 10 games this year, while goalkeeper Marie Hourihan has established herself in the side following the retirement
of Emma Byrne.
The fourth of the year’s quartet of ever-presents was Katie McCabe, the 22-year-old Dubliner who was appointed captain of the side back in August and who has been consistently excellent throughout the campaign.
A challenging spell it was too on the club front with no little
upheaval, McCabe joining Glasgow City on loan from Arsenal. By the time her spell ended last month, she had helped them win their 11th successive league title.
For her own form throughout 2017 and for her leadership of the team, then, McCabe is our choice for the November Sportswoman of the Month.