Becky Flaherty, like her squad colleagues Abbie Magee, Louise McDaniel and Emily Wilson will go to the Women’s Euro 2022 finals having walked a similar path before.
Five years ago they all played at the under-19 version of the event. Flaherty, however, is the odd one out.
Magee, McDaniel and Wilson were in the Northern Ireland squad that were hosts for the tournament. Flaherty was playing for Scotland!
Indeed she was the goalkeeper that McDaniel beat when she made history by becoming the first female Northern Ireland player to score in the final stages of a Uefa competition – which also gave the country a first point at that level of a women’s tournament.
Two years later Flaherty was playing for Northern Ireland and that put her on the path to dreamland as part of the history-making squad that has reached a first senior tournament,
Her one regret is that her inspiration, the grandfather through who she qualifies for Northern Irealnd – isn’t around to see her.
“It’s funny how it has worked out. I was in the Scotland under-19 squad for the Euro finals in Northern Ireland. Now I’ve come full circle to be in the senior finals with Northern Ireland,” Flaherty reflected.
“My grandma is from Ballymena and my grandpa is from Coleraine. My grandma is still alive, but sadly my grandpa – who was really into football – unfortunately passed away a few years ago. He never got to see me play for Northern Ireland, but everything I do I feel like I am doing it for him.
“I all happened when I was at Everton with Simone Magill.
“I had just signed for Everton when she found out I had a family background from Northern Ireland and she put my name in with Alfie Wylie, he got in touch and I played for the first time in Turkey in 2019 before Kenny Shiels took over.
“It’s been a good move and I am glad I did it.”
Flaherty’s Northern Ireland team-mates are glad she did it too due to the important part she played in helping the team qualify for the Euro finals.
After appearing for the first time in a friendly against Kazakhstan in March 2019 her competitive debut nine months later was a forgettable one as the new girl had to pick the ball out of the net six times in Norway.
Four days later she excelled in keeping a clean sheet in a 0-0 draw at home to Wales – a result that proved crucial in the final group standings.
Probably Flaherty’s biggest test came in the final away game of the campaign when a red card shown to Jackie Burns saw her thrust into the action against Belarus. It was 0-0 with an hour to go and after Rachel Furness scored on the brink of half time it was another clean sheet that secured a priceless three points.
“Looking back I take a lot of personal pride in those two clean sheets because of how big those results turned out to be for us,” said Flaherty.
“My first game away to Norway when we lost 6-0 and that was tough, but I think that prepared us for the Wales game because coming off the back of playing against one of the best teams in the world so we couldn’t have been prepared any better.
“When I look back and think that I kept two clean sheets, I am happy that I played my part in getting the team here.”