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Tuesday 19 September 2017

Women's side back on track after 'victory'

Ireland senior women’s captain Emma Byrne
Ireland senior women’s captain Emma Byrne

Monday's international at home to Slovakia, in Dublin, is only a friendly as Ireland's women's international team gear up for the World Cup qualifiers and their bid to reach the finals for the first time.

But whatever Monday brings, this week has seen the Irish side pull off a major victory as they won their bitter and at times ill-tempered battle with the FAI.

The association have not revealed details of the deal which saw the two parties come to an agreement, which ended any threat to Monday's game against Slovakia, but the teamare in no doubt over the outcome.

"Long night, tough going - finally both sides came to an agreement! Victory! thank you for all your support. It proves unity is a powerful force" was the reaction, on twitter, from team captain Emma Byrne, victory the key word.

"The PFAI is pleased that following lengthy negotiations through the night a comprehensive agreement has been reached which addresses all of the issues raised by the Republic of Ireland Women's National Team," said Ollie Cahill, who acted on the players' behalf via the PFAI.

The players, who first expressed their unhappiness with many aspects of their treatment by the FAI over two years ago, had a long list of issues and basic demands. "We got what we wanted," said a source close to the talks when asked if all demands had been met.

Players expressed relief that the issue had been dealt with and they could spend the lead in to Monday's game focusing on the match against the visiting Slovaks.

The players are back in the fold and team boss Colin Bell will speak about the game at a press conference today, after a week to forget for his employers, though Bell - a winner of the Champions League at women's club level - must have wondered this week what he had let himself in for when he joined the FAI payroll in February.

A kick-off of 2pm in Tallaght on Monday will not help the attendance on the day but the profile of the women's game has never been higher.

What's also happened in the last week is that a group of players have, for the first time in a generation, in reality for the first time since Saipan, broken free of their shackles and refused to toe the party line of the FAI.

The level of control by the FAI of their players and staff has reached new heights of late: when Bell spoke to the daily newspapers immediately after the press conference for his unveiling, a member of the FAI's communications team was instructed to listen to, and record, the conversation, behaviour more accustomed to how nervy press officers at Premier League level guard club managers, than the coach of the Irish women's side.

A bigger job for the FAI is rebuilding trust between the associaton and the players. The threats made to players in an email, signed by FAI officials Peter Sherrard, Ruud Dokter and Sue Ronan, last Sunday that their careers, their clubs and their "international reputations" would be harmed by refusing to play against Slovakia, are still on the record. Those hurtful words haven't gone away, you know. A public apology is due.

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