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Sunday 17 November 2019

Pauw cold on college moves

Key players miss vital Greece game

Manager Vera Pauw during the Republic of Ireland WNT squad announcement at FAI Headquarters in Abbotstown
Manager Vera Pauw during the Republic of Ireland WNT squad announcement at FAI Headquarters in Abbotstown

Vera Pauw has warned Irish footballers that they need to consider their international careers before they embark on a scholarship at college level abroad.

That follows a row over the release of players for the next game in the senior women's team's bid to qualify for the European Championship finals.

The Republic have a enjoyed a 100% start to life in Group I in the qualifiers for Euro 2021, with two wins from two games, the most recent a 3-2 defeat of Ukraine in what was Pauw's first match as national team boss.

Germany, who have scored 31 goals without reply in their four games to date, are certain to win the group but Ireland's positive start gives them a good chance of the runner-up spot and a possible place in the play-offs.

Next up for Ireland is a qualifier in Greece next Tuesday, but Pauw travels without some of her key talents.

The trio of Megan Campbell, Megan Connolly and West Ham goalkeeper Courtney Brosnan miss out through injury.

But university players Heather Payne and Harriet Scott are unavailable, as their colleges are not obliged to release them for internationals and they have stood their ground, something Pauw says is a disappointment.

And she warns that players need to take this stance into account when they are selecting a scholarship move to further their careers as she's very sceptical about the well-worn path through college football.

"You want my personal opinion? I think they promise gold and mountains and it doesn't help your career. I have never seen a player coming back better from college, in my whole career, in any country," says Pauw, who fears that college football is concentrated into a two-month burst with no real football for the rest of the year.

Opportunities

"Usually, they do not come back better than when they left. And there are plenty of opportunities these days, plenty of opportunities to have a top career in football."

She says Scott and Payne are "very disappointed" to miss out.

"They've tried everything to get here. We cannot blame the players at all," she added.

"I've seen this issue in many situations. They promise that you are released for international duty. But that's the coach promising that. And then the professor says 'you cannot go, otherwise we stop your scholarship'. So the players have no choice."

The soccer scholarship path, especially in US universities, has been taken by a series of Irish players but the current squad tends to stay closer to home.

Of the panel named by Pauw for the Greek game, eight are with home-based clubs, another eight in the UK, five attached to European clubs (Portugal, Germany, Italy) and three more in the USA or Australia.

She says Scott's College, Keele University, have promised to release her for the next international in March but will block her from joining up with the international squad this time around.

"The colleges have very strict rules, it's coming from there. So, they have any right to stop them. And whatever agreement you make, if they say you can't go, you can't go," Pauw says.

She attended Sunday's Cup final between Wexford Youths and Peamount United but talent on view there was for the future, not now, as she relies on her in-form players, especially Denise O'Sullivan who the Dutch-born coach labelled as "one of the best players in the world. She has everything."

Ireland will travel to Greece boosted by the defeat of Ukraine, the first qualifying win over a higher-seeded team.

"Yeah, I didn't know that, it was nice to read. I think we analysed Ukraine in a way that we could beat them and the game plan succeeded," Pauw says. "And it's always very nice if together you can create a game plan and the players buy into it and really try to play in that way."

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