Crusaders Strikers boss Jonny Tuffey has backed Northern Ireland to weave more magic at the Euro 2022 finals.
Kenny Shiels’ side beat Ukraine in a play-off to clinch a first appearance in a major tournament and they take on Norway at St Mary’s Stadium on July 7 before games against Austria and hosts England.
Strikers duo, defender Julie Nelson and forward Emily Wilson, have been included in the squad. Thirteen of the players selected ply their trade in the Women’s Premiership in Northern Ireland, while in January, 22 domestic-based players embarked on a full-time professional set-up to prepare for the Euros.
Former Northern Ireland international Tuffey, who succeeded Spike Hill in his coaching role with the Strikers, is looking forward to watching the side stand tall in the finals.
“It’s a fantastic achievement from the team and the hype and build-up is really starting to take off now,” said the Crusaders keeper. “The preparation has been done and from speaking to our players, they are raring to go. It’s important everyone gets behind them and gives them the support they deserve.
“Let’s hope they go there and make a name for themselves.
“You want to play against the best teams and players in the world.
“It will be a fantastic experience for them and it’s important they go there and give a really good account of themselves.”
Tuffey was goalkeeping coach with the Strikers before he took on the managerial role and it’s a task he’s relishing.
“I’m really enjoying it,” he added.
“It’s been a fantastic stepping stone into that side of the game, it’s been a great education. The girls have been brilliant, taken on board the information and tried to put it into practice. It’s been great.”
Northern Ireland international Sarah McFadden, meanwhile, has signed a new contract with Durham Women.
The midfielder, who has been included in the Euro finals squad, will also take up a coaching role in the club’s new Barclays WSL Academy team.
McFadden originally joined Durham in 2016 after a spell with Sunderland and has been a regular in the squad ever since.
She has racked up 137 appearances for the club, with 27 of those coming last season, and has scored 17 times.
“There was no other option really, I never thought about moving away from Durham,” said McFadden, who won the coveted North East Football Writers’ Award for 2021.
“The last five years have been amazing and this is an opportunity that I’d never give up.
“Since we’ve been little girls, all we’ve ever wanted to do is be full-time footballers — and we’re so happy that our club that we love is offering that.”