Belfast Telegraph

Forget England... come and support us, says Northern Ireland women's team

By Steven Beacom

The Northern Ireland public have been urged to come out and support their international women's team in a 2015 World Cup qualifier in Belfast tonight... rather than sit at home and watch England's make or break clash with Uruguay in Brazil.

Just 15 minutes before Roy Hodgson's men take on Luis Suarez and co in what promises to be the most dramatic game of the World Cup so far at 8pm, the Northern Ireland women kick-off their match against Scotland at Solitude.

You have to wonder how many people will attend the Northern Ireland game with England's future on the line in South America being broadcast live on ITV and RTE.

Northern Ireland manager Alfie Wylie makes no apology for asking football fans here to forget about England and support their own.

"We have a fantastic group of players who give so much to play for Northern Ireland and are very proud to do so," he said.

"In Thursday's game we can all play a part in helping record a great performance against one of the top countries in women's football.

"We would ask for people to come out and get behind the team vocally and create an atmosphere that can give our girls a great lift."

Whether his plea falls on deaf ears we shall wait and see but a question worth asking is why did the Irish FA not try to re-schedule the fixture when they realised it was going to clash with such an eagerly awaited encounter?

The World Cup draw was made in December last year so they have known about it for SEVEN months!

Didn't Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin recently tell the IFA they had to treat women's football more seriously?

An IFA spokesperson said: "The fixtures for our World Cup games were decided in April last year and have been set since then.

"Both Northern Ireland and Scotland played at the weekend in qualifiers and the match at Solitude completes the double header for both teams.

"Playing two games back to back and having the squad together for a long period of time is considered good for the development of the squad."

Asked if it was thought many would forego watching England on the box and turn out at Solitude, the IFA spokesperson added: "Recent home games have been well attended and we are hopeful it will be the same this time.

"The girls are fully focused and hope to get a good result."

Pre-match entertainment will start at 6.15pm and includes face painters and balloon makers.

Northern Ireland, who lost 1-0 in Bosnia at the weekend, are fifth in a six-team group.

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