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Republic of Ireland captain Emma Byrne says it's falling behind England and Scotland because players who have jobs outside football can’t always turn up for national-team duty.

Many elite players need to take jobs outside football to pay their bills and can’t always afford to join up with their teammates for training and matches, according to goalkeeper Byrne, who has played 127 times for the Republic of Ireland.

Ireland’s players do not receive any compensation for spending as many as 40 days of the year on national-team duty.

"We're falling even further behind the home nations which I think is a major problem," Byrne said. "Sometimes we don't have full squads for the games because people are working and they can't commit."

While England and Scotland qualified for July’s European Championship in the Netherlands, Ireland has yet to qualify for a major tournament.

Byrne, 37, is a full-time professional in England where she enjoyed a long and distinguished career with Arsenal Ladies before joining Brighton Hove and Albion this year.

Many of her national team colleagues play in Ireland’s amateur league. 

"We get no reimbursements, so players either have to take holiday pay, holiday leave, leave without pay” to join up with the national team, Byrne said. “For players who have mortgages, bills and general expenses it's really difficult for them."

Byrne said the compensation paid to Scotland’s national team could be an example to follow for Ireland: clubs and the national federation combine to cover the expenses of players, allowing them to devote all their time to football.

The Irish players union, the Professional Footballers’ Association of Ireland, is advising women footballers on their working conditions.

“They’re pushing for us,” Byrne said. “It gives us confidence that someone is there for us, fighting our corner.”

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Picture above: Emma Byrne playing for the Republic of Ireland in a 2-0 loss against the United States in Glendale, Arizona in 2012.

 

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