Irish boss Vera Pauw: US college route is not always best way to develop

A host of young Irish soccer players have headed Stateside to build their careers but may be better served by sticking with the League of Ireland
Irish boss Vera Pauw: US college route is not always best way to develop

Denise O'Sullivan of Republic of Ireland in action against Janice Cayman and Lenie Onzia of Belgium. Picture: David Catry/Sportsfile

REPUBLIC of Ireland manager Vera Pauw has warned young players in this country that universities in America are not the best place to go to continue their football development.

Cork City have recently seen goalkeeper Maria O’Sullivan make the move across the Atlantic to continue her studies and her football career while Lauren Egbuloniu, Sophie Liston, and Éabha O’Mahony, who recently trained with Ireland’S home-based squad, will make a similar switch this summer with Leah Hayes Coen following next January.

“My thoughts are that in the US in their college system they promise you golden mountains but you play only two months a year,” said Pauw.

“In those two months there are also qualification campaigns and there are a lot of problems with coming over. The rest of the year they play friendlies, so for your football development, the USA is not the best place to go.

“On the other hand, there are players who go there for their individual development and to get a degree.

“But there are ways to do that where you don’t have to leave the country for four years; you can do it for one year and then follow the same course close to home and go to university close to home to end your studies here.

“So I think players should look into that more instead of disappearing for four years and blocking your own development if you want to become an international star, an international pro player.

“That’s different than their pro league — the National Women’s Soccer League — where Denise (O’Sullivan) and Diane (Caldwell) are playing.

That is a top competition, that is fantastic, but the college system is you start your pre-season in August, two weeks only, then you have four games a week, and then it stops at the end of October. 

If you are lucky, you have November and then that’s it for the year.”

Republic of Ireland Women’s national team manager Vera Pauw. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Republic of Ireland Women’s national team manager Vera Pauw. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

UCC’s Soccer Development Officer Greg Yelverton recently told The Echo that he believes there should be more collaboration between the governing bodies running women’s football in Ireland and third-level institutions in order to keep young prospects in the Women’s National League.

“That would be a very good thing,” added the Irish boss. “There are initiatives and we are looking into how we can support that because that would be better I think.”


Pauw was speaking following confirmation that the Republic of Ireland were drawn in Group A alongside Sweden, Finland, Slovakia, and Georgia in the qualifying round for the 2023 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

Ireland, who are 34th in the FIFA rankings, will be taking on sides currently ranked fifth, 24th, 46th, and 126th respectively which should present her side with a good chance to at least reach the play-offs.

The record number of 51 contenders were split into six groups of six teams, and three of five, with the games to be played between September 2021 and September 2022.

The winners of those nine qualifying groups will progress to the finals with the runners-up taking part in the rather complicated UEFA play-offs in October 2022.

In the play-offs, the three best runners-up will be seeded directly to round 2 of the play-offs while the six remaining runners-up will contest three single-leg play-offs in round 1.

Then, the three winners from round 1 and the three teams seeded directly to round 2 will compete in single-leg play-offs determined by a draw.

Finally, the two play-off winners with the highest ranking (based on results in the qualifying group stage and round 2 play-offs) will qualify for the finals while the remaining play-off winner will compete in the inter-confederation play-offs.

“It’s not a bad draw, it could have been better of course but the draw gives us some perspective,” added Pauw.

“Sweden have qualified for the Olympics as one of the best three European teams. They have had a dip from 2010 to 2015 but are now completely at the top.

Our aim should be to get the runners-up position. Finland is a strong team but not unbeatable.

“We will do everything to win from Sweden, but let’s stay realistic where we are. We can only succeed if we are realistic about where we are now.

“If we are now going to shout that we can beat Sweden twice in the group, that is not realistic.

“Our main focus is that we should get the mistakes out of our game so we do not lose unnecessary goals. If we manage that then I am sure we will qualify for at least the play-offs.”

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