Release Date: 19/09/2012
Football-mad MLA Michelle McIlveen is calling on the Green and White Army to turn out and support the Northern Ireland women’s football team at Windsor Park tonight.
The girls in green face Belgium in their final Euro 2013 qualifier and although reaching the finals is now beyond them mathematically it has been a most encouraging campaign for Alfie Wylie’s team.
They famously beat Norway, ranked 12th in the world, and but for some ill-luck and the concession of late goals in a couple of matches might have been in the shake-up going into this final fixture.
However, the rare treat of getting to play at the national stadium this evening is a measure of recognition – as was a Stormont reception on Monday evening hosted by the Chair of the Assembly’s Culture, Arts and Leisure Committee, Miss McIlveen.
We would like to have been going into this last round with a chance of qualifying but progress has undoubtedly been made in the past couple of years and the team is looking forward to the honour of playing at Windsor,” says NI captain Ashley Hutton.
“That is a big boost for the team and we want to produce a performance worthy of that stage and end this campaign on a high. Coming so soon after the Olympics, this is a good chance for the sport to put its best foot forward.
“Being given this opportunity along with the Stormont reception is encouraging recognition and it’s important to try and build locally on the momentum created by London 2012 where women’s football really caught the imagination.”
The mood of doom and gloom among Northern Ireland football fans following the men’s disappointing draw with Luxembourg was lifted a little at the weekend when the NI Ireland Under 17 girls impressively secured top spot in a Euro qualifying group which included footballing giants England and Italy.
Strangford MLA McIlveen, a Windsor Park block-booker who has avidly followed the men’s team home and away for many years, has in more recent times become a proud fan of their female counterparts.
“I was at Coleraine Showgrounds last Saturday night to see the Under 17s clinically dismiss Israel 4-1 to follow-up on their draw with England and sensational 1-0 victory over the Italians,” she explained.
“Having also attended some of the senior side’s qualifiers I can testify to the pride and passion with which these girls represent our country. They are a credit to the shirt and deserve our support.
“I would appeal to all Northern Ireland football fans who can make it to Windsor Park on Wednesday evening to come along and support the girls. Anyone who hasn’t watched women’s football will be impressed by the quality and commitment on display.
“There was a flat feeling after the Luxembourg game but I’m confident the girls can lift our spirits with a good result here ahead of next month’s tough trip to Portugal for Michael O’Neill and the boys,” she said.
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