News From Northern Ireland

The Irish FA provide us with all the news from the national squad selection for forthcoming games with England and Austria, plus all the news from the Irish FA Women’s Challenge Cup Final.

Above: Northern Ireland squad Photo: via Irish FA

Northern Ireland senior women’s team manager Kenny Shiels has made a couple of changes to his squad for this month’s FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 qualifiers against England and Austria.

Everton Women striker Simone Magill returns to the fold after being absent for the impressive victories against Luxembourg and Latvia in September due to injury.

And midfielder Joely Andrews is also back after impressing during Glentoran Women’s title run-in. She was not included in the panel last month.

Missing out this time are Cliftonville Ladies forward Caitlin McGuinness and Glentoran Women striker Danielle Maxwell. 

Young Cliftonville Ladies defender Toni-Leigh Finnegan is not available due to injury, while still recovering from long term injuries are Rangers Women midfielder Megan Bell and Linfield Ladies pair Ashley Hutton and Abbie Magee.

England and Austria, the first and second seeds in European Qualifying Group D respectively, will be an altogether different proposition than last month’s opponents. 

The Northern Ireland senior women’s team are set to play at Wembley Stadium for the first time on Saturday 23 October. The game against England kicks off in London at 5.15pm.

And then it’s back home for a qualifier against Austria on Tuesday 26 October (7pm start).

England, currently ranked 8th in the world, began their FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 qualification campaign with emphatic wins over North Macedonia at home (8-0) and Luxembourg away (10-0) in September.

Above: Northern Ireland boss Kenny Shiels selected his squad for games against England and Austria. Photo via: Irish FA

Austria, who are 21st in the latest FIFA Coca-Cola global rankings, defeated Latvia 8-1 away and North Macedonia 6-0 at home. 

Northern Ireland began their quest for a place at the Women’s World Cup in 2023 – it is being hosted by Australia and New Zealand – with a 4-0 win over Luxembourg in Larne followed by a 4-0 victory over Latvia in Belfast last month.

Shiels has gone with his usual blend of youth and experience in his 23-strong panel for this month’s tough assignments.

His squad features seven Glentoran Women players who are fresh from securing the NIFL Danske Bank Women’s Premiership title and the County Antrim Women’s Challenge Cup. 

And all seven will be aiming to help their club secure a treble when they take on Crusaders Strikers in the Electric Ireland-sponsored Irish FA Women’s Challenge Cup Final at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park tomorrow (15 October, 7.45pm kick-off). 

Goalkeepers – Jackie Burns (Lee University/Glentoran Women), Becky Flaherty (Huddersfield Town Women), Maddy Harvey-Clifford (Crusaders Strikers).

Defenders – Julie Nelson (Crusaders Strikers), Rebecca McKenna (Lewes Women), Rebecca Holloway (Birmingham City Women), Laura Rafferty (Southampton Women), Kelsie Burrows (Cliftonville Ladies), Demi Vance (Rangers Women).

Midfielders – Marissa Callaghan and Louise McDaniel (both Cliftonville Ladies), Nadene Caldwell, Chloe McCarron, Caragh Hamilton and Joely Andrews (all Glentoran Women), Rachel Furness (Liverpool Women), Sarah McFadden (Durham Women), Ciara Watling (Southampton Women).

Forwards – Kerry Beattie and Lauren Wade (both Glentoran Women), Simone Magill (Everton Women), Kirsty McGuinness (Cliftonville Ladies), Emily Wilson (Crusaders Strikers).

Glentoran Wrap Up Treble

Above: Glentoran lift the Irish FA Women’s Challenge Cup. Photo via: Irish FA

Glentoran Women completed the treble at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park.

The league champions deservedly lifted the Irish FA Women’s Challenge Cup sponsored by Electric Ireland after defeating Crusaders Strikers 2-0 thanks to goals from player of the match Joely Andrews and Lauren Wade.

The Glens, with the NIFL Danske Bank Women’s Premiership trophy and the County Antrim FA Women’s Challenge Cup already in the cabinet, created the bulk of the chances in the match and deserved their success after producing some slick football. 

The opening period of the match was scrappy before Glentoran, fielding a team packed with current and former Northern Ireland internationals, enjoyed a period of sustained pressure.

The first clearcut chance of the game saw Glens midfielder Chloe McCarron unleash one of her trademark long range strikes. Her superb hit crashed off the bar and down onto the goalline, however the referee, Arleen Campbell, adjudged that the ball did not cross the line.

On 22 minutes the Glens took the lead thanks to a well worked goal. Captain Jessica Foy crossed to striker Kerry Beattie and she laid the ball back to Andrews 16 yards out and the midfielder planted it past Crues keeper Maddy Harvey-Clifford into the bottom corner of the net.

Five minutes later Strikers midfielder Amy McGivern got on the end of a long pass and scuffed an effort past the post. It was a decent opportunity to equalise.

Andrews had a chance to double the Glens’ lead on 34 minutes. She bamboozled the Crues defence by twisting this way and that, creating an opening, however her weak shot was blocked and Harvey-Clifford gathered the ball.

Crusaders Strikers, who finished third in the league this season behind the Glens and Cliftonville Ladies, struggled to make an impact going forward although experienced midfielder Danielle McDowell-Tuffey did have an opportunity to draw her team level as half-time approached. She stepped up to take a free-kick just outside the area but Glens keeper Emma Higgins comfortably saved her shot at the near post. 

The Crues, whose manager Jonny Tuffey was unable to attend the game due to Covid protocols, made a double substitution after the break with Northern Ireland striker Emily Wilson, who missed last weekend’s Co Antrim Cup decider through injury, and Meghan Ingram entering the fray.

Andrews sprayed a lovely pass to Wade down the left and her tantalising cross was plucked out of the air by Harvey-Clifford, and then McCarron fired a shot over the top.

Moments later Caragh Hamilton let fly from distance and Harvey-Clifford dived full length to push her powerful strike past the post. It was a top class save.

The Crues, with Julie Nelson solid as a rock at the heart of their defence, continued to thwart the Glens’ forwards and they did well to snuff out an Andrews snapshot.

Wilson set off on a powerful run just after the hour mark, leaving a couple of Glentoran defenders trailing in her wake, however her shot from distance was easily held by Higgins.

Glens substitute Danielle Maxwell scooped a shot wide, Nelson stepped in to stop a promising move between Maxwell and Beattie in its tracks and Hamilton fizzed an effort past the post as the Glens continued to push forward.

Glentoran grabbed their second goal – and secured the treble – with minutes remaining. Midfielder Nadene Caldwell jinked her way past a couple of defenders and crossed for Wade to flick the ball past Harvey-Clifford from six yards. 

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