It’s almost time.
Northern Ireland will be the ultimate loser at Euro 2022 when they take on Norway, Austria and hosts England in their first major tournament.
With two centurions, plenty of experience, 13 national players and seven players born this century (anyone else feeling really, really old?), let’s meet the 23 players who will make Northern Ireland history this summer.
Northern Ireland’s starting goalkeeper, Burns, is an integral part of how Kenny Shiels likes to play, often starting moves from behind. A natural shot stopper and a true character off the pitch as well. This tournament could put her in the showcase this summer.
Flaherty, a former underage goalkeeper with her native Scotland, moved to Northern Ireland in 2019 and has been a reliable understudy for Burns when asked, including in two crucial European Championship qualifiers.
Turner, the only player not to play for Kenny Shiels’ side, completed a title-winning season with Wolves by receiving the go-ahead as NI’s third-choice goalkeeper for the European Championships. The former underage international deserves his place after a strong season at the club.
Shiels once described McKenna as having the heart of a lion, which speaks volumes about the Lewes right-back’s determination. With the talent to back up his work ethic, he earned a transfer to Lewes from Linfield and starred in the Championship side.
If Northern Ireland is going to cause an upset then Vance will be key. With an absolute left foot wand, as Austria can attest, he can undo the game’s tightest defenses or set pieces. He captained the team against Belgium in the absence of Marissa Callaghan and his experience is crucial.
McFadden is another of the team’s rebirth originals. He began life as a striker and has since become a cornerstone at the heart of NI’s defence. A warrior in the field, one of the best people you could meet outside of it.
When you think of Northern Ireland football, you think of Nelson, who is the record holder for most caps for the women’s team. She has been there every step of the way since the team reformed in 2004, and she has received a BEM in honor of the Queen for her achievements. Few deserve this moment more.
An absolute rock throughout the Northern Ireland campaign, including a crucial last-gasp draw in Wales that ultimately secured a play-off place, he has shown his fitness after recently recovering from a knee injury. who threatened to derail his dream of Euro 2022. A true leader and a role model for any young player.
Burrows, one of Northern Ireland’s talented youngsters, made her first start at Wembley in October after several substitute appearances. It was no small feat and she passed the test against some of the best in the world. She has certainly learned from the experienced heads around her and she is destined to be a regular for years to come.
The European Championship will be a special moment for Southampton native Rafferty when she heads out to St Mary’s in a major tournament. The defender helped the Saints move up and her excellent form has been rewarded by Shiels.
After bursting onto the scene in 2020, Magee’s progress was hampered by an ACL injury, however he recovered to become a key outing on the right side. Strong in attack and solid defensively, another one who could earn a move with great performances.
McCarron is one of three Glentoran midfielders to make the squad after returning home from a spell at Birmingham City. A quarterback-style player, McCarron keeps things going and, while she doesn’t score many goals, when she does, she tends to be spectacular.
A fantastic captain, Callaghan is a key player both on and off the pitch. A true leader, she often comes up with key moments that have helped her country reach her first major tournament. She came into the European Championship with a toe injury, but it will take more than that to rule her out. A crucial cog in Kenny Shiels’ well-oiled machine.
Northern Ireland’s top goalscorer, Furness has been around since the beginning and loves playing for her country. Northern Ireland wouldn’t be where it is without her, and watch out for her in both boxes this summer. A top player and a top person who will leave everything on the field.
Former Birmingham City player Holloway has established herself as a key member of the Shiels squad with her versatility seeing her play in defensive line, midfield and even as a winger. Shown in World Cup qualifiers, she also has an eye for goal, which could come in handy in the tournament.
Another play-off hero, Nadene Caldwell secured her place in Northern Ireland folklore with the goal that sealed qualification. He often goes unnoticed, but he is an important who deserves this moment.
McDaniel is one of those characters that you need in a locker room with his energy and positive personality. Back home after brief spells with Blackburn Rovers and Hearts, McDaniel played for NI at the Under 19 European Championship in 2017 and scored NI’s first goal at the redeveloped Windsor Park in September. He has the ability to step up when needed.
Andrews, a self-recognized football fan himself, is an old head on young shoulders and could be a rising star at the European Championships. He made his first start against England at Windsor Park in April, without looking out of place, just days after scoring his first international goal against Austria.
When Magill plays well, Northern Ireland plays well. The former Everton striker will be key if Northern Ireland are to pull off another miracle this summer. A great talent who is the poster girl for Northern Ireland, the green and white army will expect great things when Magill realizes a lifelong dream.
Kirsty McGuinness, a constant thread on the left, is one of the first names you think of when it comes to Northern Ireland football. A serial winner and goalscorer when it comes to national soccer, she brings quality and leadership that will spark the Shiels team.
Is Northern Ireland fit? Quite possibly. Wade, a speedy winger with a lethal left foot, is a great player, as evidenced by her famous goal for Glasgow City in the Champions League and her thunderous effort against Belgium before the European Championship. She will cause trouble for defenders.
Wilson is another young striker with an eye for goal and has taken on the role of being the star player for the Crusaders Strikers. He has that X factor and a clear passion to play for his country, Wilson can also work with his pace, but the box is his natural habitat.
Kirsty’s younger sister, Caitlin McGuinness is an outright striker who is the top scorer in the Women’s Premier League with nine goals in seven games. She is likely to play off the bench, she has an eye for goal and she will be eager to impress on the big stage.