Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland star Lauren Perry ready to build on positives from Spanish lesson

By Laure James

Super stopper Lauren Perry has said Northern Ireland are riding the crest of a wave with the UEFA Women's Under-19 European Championship. The fearless goalkeeper put her agility and talent in the spotlight as one of Northern Ireland's key players in their narrow 2-0 defeat to Spain on Tuesday night.

Turning on the quality when it mattered, Perry and her team-mates worked tirelessly to minimise any damage Pedro Lopez's players could inflict.

"I am really pleased," said Perry, who measures less than 5'6" but dominated her goal with admirable prowess. "I thought we played really well and were very strong defensively.

"I suppose we expected Spain to be very strong and it's maybe no surprise they got the win, but we put in a really good performance.

"We're just looking forward to the next game already, there will be some analysis of where we could improve but really what we want to do is to continue the good work and progress we've shown.

"Obviously, Spain are a good side but I thought we stepped up to the challenge. We competed with them, and really gave them a match."

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Northern Ireland's Lauren Perry

Perry, who signed for Linfield last season, said it's a dream come true to be participating at this level, adding how proud boss Alfie Wylie and their backroom are of the whole team.

"Alfie said he is very proud of us, after the game, and we are proud of ourselves to be honest, it is a big thing coming to a tournament for the first time, even though we're hosts, but we are glad to get the first game out the way with lots of positives to take."

After starring in front of a record crowd of almost 4,300 at the National Stadium, the girls move on to face Mourneview Park tomorrow night to face Scotland - and are hoping fans turn out in great number again.

"The fans definitely got behind us and it really wills us on to keep going to the end," Perry added.

"It's a huge learning curve, and it's very exciting for us. We'd love to play in front of big crowds all the time, but having them at this tournament is so important and a genuine boost."

For the first time, the team are experiencing the immersion which comes with being in camp at a final tournament and, while this had been a culture shock at first, they're now relishing every educating moment.

The team has benefitted from pep talks from senior men's boss, Michael O'Neill and champion boxer Carl Frampton, while Ballon d'Or winner and former Germany international Nadine Kessler is in Northern Ireland to give her support.

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