Give youth a chance: Northern Ireland make seven changes to squad for Women's Euro 2021 qualifiers against Norway and Wales
Kenny Shiels has made seven changes to his Northern Ireland squad for the upcoming UEFA Women’s Euro 2021 qualifying double-header.
Shiels' side travel to Norway on November 8 before returning to Seaview, where they host Wales three days later and will do it with a much-changed panel from the last international window, when they were beaten by the Norwegians but drew in Wales.
The new names bring a youthfulness to the squad, with six of the seven having featured regularly in the Northern Ireland Women’s U19 and U17 set-ups in recent years.
The players coming in are Blackburn Rovers Ladies goalkeeper Lauren Perry, Blackburn defender Kelsie Burrows and Cliftonville Ladies defender Toni-Leigh Finnegan, Glentoran midfielder Emma McMaster and Linfield strikers Casey Howe and Caitlin McGuinness.
Sheffield United Women goalkeeper Becky Flaherty, who was a late call-up to the previous squad, has also been included.
The players left out this time by Shiels are experienced keepers Jackie Burns and Emma Higgins, defenders Claragh Connor, Natalie Johnson and Yasmin White plus midfielders Kerry Montgomery and Rebecca Holloway.
Shiels, who was appointed to the manager’s role back in May, opted for mainly experienced players in his panel for his opening two competitive fixtures, however he has now decided to give youth a chance.
World Cup quarter-finalists Norway are the top seeds in Qualifying Group C and currently top the table with three wins out of three, having scored 26 goals and conceded just one.
Not surprisingly Northern Ireland, who lost 6-0 to the Norwegians in Belfast at the end of August, will be huge underdogs going in to the game in Stavanger.
The Welsh are second seeds in the group, and currently lie second with seven points from three games, however Shiels will be keen to build on the fine 2-2 draw against Wales in Newport in September – especially with the game being in Belfast this time.
Northern Ireland, seeded fourth, will also face Belarus (third seeds) and Faroe Islands (fifth seeds) in the qualifiers next year.
Nine group winners, plus three runners-up with the best records, will automatically qualify for the Women’s Euros in England in 2021. The other six runners-up will play off in October 2020 for the remaining three berths in the 16-team finals.
Northern Ireland squad to face Norway and Wales
Goalkeepers: Rebecca Flaherty, Lauren Perry
Defenders: Julie Nelson, Ashley Hutton, Demi Vance, Rachel Newborough, Freya Holdaway, Kelsie Burrows, Toni-Leigh Finnegan
Midfielders: Marissa Callaghan, Sarah McFadden, Rachel Furness, Chloe McCarron, Megan Bell, Rebecca McKenna, Emma McMaster
Forwards: Simone Magill, Lauren Wade, Caitlin McGuinness, Casey Howe
Belfast Telegraph Digital