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Familiarity of opposition teams is a positive for us

Caragh Hamilton


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Northern Ireland’s players arrive for their final training session ahead of the Norway clash

Northern Ireland’s players arrive for their final training session ahead of the Norway clash

William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland’s players arrive for their final training session ahead of the Norway clash

After coming back from one injury I had all my energies focussed on trying to make the squad for Northern Ireland’s first major tournament.

Sadly another injury means that I won’t be on the pitch, but I will be in Southampton for the Women’s Euro 2016 finals as a TV pundit and if I wasn’t going to play then to get a chance to still be there is an honour and a privilege to be involved in history.

The injury originally happened in Austria when we were there for the World Cup qualifier. We thought it was just a straightforward muscle strain and then MRIs showed that it was a lot more complex.

When I saw the consultant he gave me the definite answer that there was no real chance of making the tournament unless I wanted to play injured. The thought did cross my mind that I could go and maybe manage the pain and play through it, but I didn’t want to take the place of a player who was fully fit or play at 60 per cent of my ability.

That wouldn’t have been good for the team or for myself. If I was going to go I was going to go to our first major tournament knowing that I was in the best shape possible.

Making the decision there and then and knowing so far out was good. I had time to process it. I think if it had happened two weeks before going I would have been more devastated.

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Kenny Shiels

Kenny Shiels

William Cherry/Presseye

Kenny Shiels

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I had been in the full-time training set up for the last six months and the real test of how useful that has been is going to be these games.

We have played Norway, Austria and England in recent years so this is a really good marker and a really good test of how far we actually have come. We will be able to see if the gap has narrowed.

I think that is the only way we can test how far we have come.

We can maybe say that we can see improvement in ourselves and in our fitness and technical ability, but you really can’t fully measure it until you set up against these sorts of teams.

I think the familiarity of the teams is a positive for us. We know what we are going to get with them and I think with Austria in particular we know that we are within touching distance of a result, being minutes away from a win in Belfast and I think we know that we are closer than what the rankings would suggest – maybe to all of the teams.

We have beaten teams ranked well above us on the way to the tournament and I think everyone feels there is a sense that we can do it again.

I personally take inspiration from what the men did in France at Euro 2016. I was there for the three group games and that Ukraine was probably the way that we see the Austria game I would imagine.

The team that we think we can get a result against and in the other ones we are going to make it hard for them and if they are coming to underestimate us and think that it is going to be a walkover then they are going to have a pretty tough time if they do come in complacent.



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