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Release Date: 02/08/2012

Author: By Sam Woodside

IN September, Northern Ireland will play host to the UEFA European Women's Under 17 Championship - 2012/13 - Qualifying Round Group 2 mini tournament.

Northern Ireland will play Italy, Israel and England and as part of the team’s preparations, the U17 girls took part in the Carrickfergus International Ladies Football Festival.

In the Final of the tournament, Northern Ireland picked up the trophy after beating Glasgow Girls 3-0. caught up with U17 coach Alison Nicholl following the team’s success at the Carrickfergus tournament.

Q. Alison, Let me start by saying congratulations. A fantastic achievement at the Carrickfergus tournament and exactly the kind of confidence building desired for the UEFA mini tournament in September?

A. Yes definitely, however we’re still at the early stages of preparation. The tournament was a great basis for looking at all the players in our squad for assessment. And it’s been a good start to our preparations for September.”

Q. You have beaten a variety of opposition on the path to winning the Carrickfergus tournament. Some local and some as far afield as the United States. A great variety of opposition.

A. Absolutely, the USA proved the best opposition as they had some excellent players, very physical but technically sound. The players in the squad were considerably older than our girls and this was great experience for our squad ahead of upcoming friendlies.

Q.    A resounding 3-0 victory in the final. How close are you to reaching the level you desire?

A. “We’re only at the start. I’m very pleased with the performance and attitude of players. Glasgow Girls proved a very physical side. They played well and showed some positive displays in getting the ball down and moving well. Their goalkeeper put on a fine display which proved difficult for us. Overall I’m pleased with the team and we will continue to move on and work hard over the next few weeks.”

Q. Having qualified for the final with a game in hand, did you use this to your advantage?

A. With qualification to the final guaranteed, this gave some of our players a well earned rest and a chance to look at other members of our squad in action. Our team consists of players who have joined recently alongside players who have come through the excellence programme at Under 15 level. These players have grown and have improved technically due to this programme. The players who have come in have shown they are up to the standard and have shown fantastic attitude with some solid performances. We have a great group of players.

Q. Finally, it’s great to see Northern Ireland host a tournament of this stature. Will a home advantage be a great advantage to your players? No major travel as opposed to teams coming from further afield?

A. We’re under no illusions as we know we have a tough group, facing teams of the quality of England, Israel and Italy, so we know we will have our work cut out. However having a home advantage will benefit our players. Playing on familiar pitches and environments. It’s a challenge we are looking forward to and will continue to work hard in preparation. We are due in Estonia for matches in two weeks and this will again be more preparation for our players.

The Irish FA would like to wish the Northern Ireland Under 17 Women’s squad all the best for the UEFA mini tournament in September.

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