As Captain Katie was entitled to express an opinion – which was all she did

There’s a story which has now been granted admission to the annals of Meath GAA which goes along the following lines: a very senior player is earmarked for substitution, but is not of a mind to row in with the idea and in the end it was a youngster in his debut season who succumbed to the curly finger.

If you thought such civil disobedience was mostly an Irish thing, your attention is drawn to the case of the Carrabao Cup Final a couple of years back when the Chelsea goalkeeper refused to come off when Mauricio Sari wanted to make a change.

In my opinion, both of the above are significantly worse instances than what Katie McCabe has been ridiculously villified for in the aftermath of the Republic Of Ireland’s historic draw with Nigeria at the Women’s World Cup in Australia.

Instead of hailing the greatest result ever achieved by an Irish Women’s team, the killjoys, knit pickers and begrudgers have swarmed on McCabe like a bee on a pollinating plant. All because the Arsenal star suggested to manager Vera Pauw that she make a substitution. Hardly mortal sin territory.

Katie McCabe and Vera Pauw had an on-field spat which many are calling Saipan II: In both cases the players were right

While engaging in friendly fire with an acquaintance who was very much in the Pauw camp on the issue, it was made very clear that this corner would be in wholehearted agreement that the Dutch woman has drastically improved the fortunes of and outlook for Irish ladies soccer.

As the Captain of the team, at the very least, McCabe should be entitled to express an opinion to the Manager. Which – newsflash – is exactly all she did.

Furthermore, for all that what the girls achieved in qualifying for tournament at all was a wholly monumental accomplishment, the presence of a cloud lurking over the setup cannot be denied or ignored either.

No, not the hideous kerfuffle that was stirred over an Irish team signing an Irish football song in the Irish dressing room. More pointedly, the fact that players who hadn’t been part of the qualification process being parachuted in to the squad for the tournament, the less than flattering stories about the Irish coach before the tournament and, at a more basic footballing level, tactical naievity bordering on ineptitude. Not to mention what I would consider the very raw deal dished out to Amber Barrett who scarcely featured at all.

Anybody who thinks players shouldn’t or don’t have an input to team affairs is obviously resident on planet Zog. Remember, none other than Mick Lyons said of Sean Boylan: “If he sticks around long enough we might make a manager out of him”.

There’s a saying in horse racing parlance which decrees good horses make good jockeys and good trainers. The same cavaet applies in team sports – good players allow people to flourish as good managers.

Hence why, in this instance, say, with a team, players will always be more important than who is managing them. The person with whom I was debating that very topic reckoned I wouldn’t say it to Sean Boylan’s face. There wouldn’t be a need to.

Any manager is only as good as the players at their disposal. Would Meath have won All Irelands in 1987 and ’88 minus players such as Robbie O’Malley, Mick Lyons, Liam Harnan, Martin O’Connell, Gerry McEntee, Joe Cassells and Colm O’Rourke? They would in my rear end.

Or in ’96 and ’99 without the likes of Mark O’Reilly, Darren Fay, Enda McManus, Paddy Reynolds, John McDermott, Trevor Giles or Graham Geraghty? Fat chance.

Now the following is slightly a mixture of the two given that the team Claudio Raneiri took over had just survived in the Premier League by the skins of their collective teeth, but, would they have pulled off the most amazing title win in the competition’s long history without Kasper Schmeichel, Wes Morgan, Harry Maguire, N’Golo Kante, Riyadh Mahrez or Jamie Vardy?

You get the idea. And what makes what is basically a communication breakdown between Manager and Captain all the more disappointing is that the Tallaght lady probably did more to get Ireland to the bottom of the world than most.

It’s just such a pity such momentous achievements by all concerned concluded under a cloud.

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