Bittersweet: Ireland captain Katie McCabe (No. 11) celebrates after giving her team the lead, but Canada fought back to eliminate the Irish from the World Cup (Colin MURTY)
Captain Katie McCabe said she was “heartbroken” Wednesday after Ireland’s World Cup dreams ended in tears with a 2-1 defeat to Canada, but vowed to end their gutsy campaign strongly.
After losing 1-0 to Australia in their tournament debut, Ireland needed to avoid defeat in Perth to keep alive their hopes of progressing from Group B.
McCabe gave them the perfect start in the fourth minute when she scored direct from a corner, much to the delight of the 17,065 fans – most of whom were loudly cheering for Ireland.
But Olympic champions Canada clawed back through an own goal from Megan Connolly just before half-time before Manchester United forward Adriana Leon provided the winner in the 53rd minute.
Ireland players were emotional after the whistle, many of whom were in tears as they paid tribute to their appreciative fans.
“We’re heartbroken, but I’m very proud of the team and how we performed and gave everything right until the very end,” said McCabe, a midfielder for Arsenal.
An Ireland upset appeared a possibility after they dominated the early exchanges in aggressive style, with McCabe scoring on a vicious left-footed in-swinger that bamboozled goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan.
“It was just about putting it in an area where it was going to be difficult for the goalkeeper,” said McCabe, who attempted a similar opportunistic goal against Australia without success.
“The rain and wind obviously helped the ball swing into the back of the net.
“I was delighted to see it go in…but it was bittersweet because we lost the game.”
Ireland will wrap up their campaign against Nigeria on July 31 in Brisbane as they hunt a first World Cup win.
“We’ll obviously be disappointed,” McCabe said.
“But we want to end this tournament on a high and we’ll be giving everything we can against Nigeria.”
McCabe hoped Ireland’s never-say-die attitude would inspire the next wave of players in her country.
“This is our first-ever major tournament and it won’t be our last,” McCabe said.
“I want young girls and young boys to dream and look up to us.
“It’s about leaving a legacy behind and we’ve given those young girls and boys a chance to dream.”