Wylie has high hopes for future of Northern Ireland girls
Alfie Wylie believes getting players into full-time football is key to Northern Ireland's progression in the women's game.
Wylie's girls will take on Italy in a European Championship qualifier tonight with the odds stacked against them. Although eight players are with Women's Super League clubs in England, only Laura Rafferty (Chelsea) and Rachel Furness (Sunderland) are full-time, while the Italians are all professionals.
The presence of other Super League players Hayley Crackle, Rachel Newborough, Ciara Sherwood, Simone Magill, Sarah McFadden and Avilla Bergin does raise the standard, but Wylie is still hampered by the loss of captain Ashley Hutton and Trudi Harbinson because of work commitments and Aimee Mackin due to her dual interest as one of Armagh's top GAA players.
"My goal is for us to raise the level so that Super League clubs sign our players and give them professional contracts," said Wylie. "It would be great if we could get to that standard. It would also help in terms of players being able to get time off.
"There is support from the IFA's Football Development Department, but we're a long way from catching the top nations."
Northern Ireland squad: Jacqueline Burns (Mid Ulster Ladies), Tiarna McKenna (Cliftonville Ladies), Hayley Crackle (Aston Villa), Julie Nelson (Crusaders Strikers), Laura Rafferty (Chelsea Ladies), Rachel Newborough (Doncaster Belles), Rachel Furness (Sunderland), Marissa Callaghan (Cliftonville Ladies), Ciara Sherwood (Millwall Ladies), Simone Magill (Everton Ladies), Sarah McFadden (Durham City Ladies), Avilla Bergin (Tottenham Hotspur Ladies), Kirsty McGuinness (Linfield Ladies), Jessica Foy (Glentoran Belfast United), Cathy Hyndman (Sion Swifts), Jade Lindsay (Celtic), Lauren Brennan (Sion Swifts)