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Vera Pauw dismayed by college block on Irish players

Vera Pauw has strongly criticised colleges and universities who she says have refused to release players to her Irish squad for next week’s Euro 2021 qualifier in Greece.

The Irish women’s manager is angry and disappointed that she will have to do without Heather Payne and Harriet Scott.

Payne’s US college Florida State University have declined to release the player, while Scott, who is studying to be a doctor at Keele University in England, is also unavailable.

Addressing Payne's situation in the States, Pauw said: “A college which gives a scholarship for pro football is getting a player because she is in the international team set-up but then stopping her from going to the national team is something that's very disappointing. Everyone knows the FIFA dates but the colleges in the US are not related to FIFA, not under the FIFA umbrella, so they don't have to release them. It's very disappointing.

"It's the reality of college football. They tried everything to get released but it's not the players' fault. I found out last week, not earlier, and that’s very disappointing. I’ve seen this issue in many situations. They promise golden mountains, 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.”

Pauw went further to suggest that the scholarship programme in America is very far from all it's cracked up to be.

“You come to the discussion about going to the US on scholarship and whether that’s a good thing for your sports career,” Pauw said at her squad announcement today.

“Because you play only two months. The rest of the year you do not play football, you do some training sessions (and) you’re allowed, if your school is very active, to have a maximum of five friendlies in a year. And during those two months you’re overloaded, so you need to play two or three games a week.

There’s hardly a pre-season, only two weeks, and then you have to go with constant changing during the game. So it’s just running, fighting, running, running, running, and you don’t learn anything. And that’s the reality of college football.

Pauw said the two players were “very disappointed” to miss out. “They’ve tried everything to get here,” she said. “We cannot blame the players at all.”

As well as Payne and Scott, Ireland will be without the injured trio of Megan Campbell, Megan Connolly and Courtney Brosan for next Tuesday’s match in Athens.

Midfielder Denise O'Sullivan, who recently helped North Carolina Courage retain their NWSL title in the United States, is included along with three players who have qualified for the quarter-finals of the UEFA Women's Champions League (Louise Quinn, Katie McCabe, Clare Shine). Wexford Youths forward Rianna Jarrett is also part of the squad following last Sunday's triumph in the FAI Women's Cup Final at the Aviva Stadium, while seven other home-based players, including Cork City's Eabha Mahony, have been called up.

Ireland sit second in Group I following wins over Montenegro and Ukraine with five goals scored and two conceded. This next game, against Greece, will be their final fixture of 2019 before action resumes in March 2020 with a double header at home to Greece and away to Montenegro).

Republic of Ireland WNT Squad

    Goalkeepers: Marie Hourihane (SC Braga), Grace Moloney (Reading), Niamh Reid Burke (Peamount United)

    Defenders: Keeva Keena (Celtic), Diane Caldwell (SC Sand), Claire Walsh (Peamount United), Claire O'Riordan (MSV Duisburg), Louise Quinn (Arsenal), Chloe Mustaki (Shelbourne), Eabha O'Mahony (Cork City WFC)

    Midfielders: Niamh Fahey (Liverpool), Denise O'Sullivan (North Carolina Courage), Stephanie Roche (CF Florentia), Tyler Toland (Manchester City), Hayley Nolan (University of Hartford), Jessica Ziu (Shelbourne), Jamie Finn (Shelbourne)

    Forwards: Rianna Jarrett (Wexford Youths), Leanne Kiernan (West Ham United), Amber Barrett (FC Koln), Katie McCabe (Arsenal), Julie-Ann Russell (Sydney University), Emily Whelan (Shelbourne), Clare Shine (Glasgow City).