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Northern Ireland women Euro victory: Sinn Fein's Hargey praises team after Ukraine triumph

Sport minister Deirdre Hargey has congratulated the Northern Ireland team for their qualification to the Euro 2022 championships.

The Sinn Fein minister met with manager Kenny Shiels and player Simone Magill on Wednesday after their against-the-odds victory.

“Last night’s historic win, which will see this fantastic group of footballers compete in their first major tournament, is testament to the skill and determination of all the players led by captain Marissa Callaghan and manager Kenny Shiels," she said.

“The commitment, bravery and will-to-win, which saw them through two tough play-off matches against Ukraine, despite going into the game with significant injuries, has been evident throughout the qualification campaign.

“Their achievement is made all the more remarkable by the fact that the team is made up of players who for the most part play for local clubs and the personal commitment and sacrifices that they have made to achieve such success cannot be underestimated.

“Qualification for one of the top women’s soccer tournaments in the world will see them compete against the best sides and will undoubtedly inspire many young girls to play football. In what has already been an amazing week for sportswomen on the island, this win will be regarded as another pivotal moment in the development of women’s sport.”

Marissa Callaghan and Nadene Caldwell scored to give Kenny Shiels' side a 2-0 play-off second leg victory on the night and a 4-1 victory on aggregate in the two-legged play-off, ensuring the nation’s first ever participation at a finals tournament.

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The achievement follows a 17-year journey for Northern Ireland to now reach the Euro 2022 finals, whose women's national team only reformed in 2004.

Fans took to social media to celebrate the team's heroics played out at Belfast's Seaview football ground.

"History made - Northern Ireland is going to the Euros," said BBC presenter Holly Hamilton on social media.

"If it was allowed, I'd run up the road and join in the party... What a night."

Ulster University's Deirdre Heenan said it was "a fantastic result".

"Northern Ireland Women’s Team have made history by qualifying for their first ever major tournament," she said.

"Absolutely delighted for them and manager Kenny Shiels," she added. "If you can’t see it, you can’t be it."

U105 radio present Frank Mitchell also congratulated the team. "Congratulations to the Northern Ireland Women's team on their great victory tonight," he said.

Former Northern Ireland professional footballer Aaron Hughes said he wanted to extend "huge congratulations" to the team.

"A historic night for women’s football in Northern Ireland, and a tremendous achievement that will no doubt inspire future generations," he said.

Alliance MLA and health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw said she was "delighted" to hear the news. "Congratulations to each and every one of them! And the journey has only started," she said.

UUP MLA Alan Chambers said on social media: "Form book was torn assunder by a brave and determined NI women's football team at Seaview tonight. We have shown once again we can take on the best in the world in any sport and get a result. Enjoy the moment girls you have earned your place in the sporting Hall of Fame."

The chief executive of Staffline Ireland, a sponsor of the team, Tina McKenzie also sent congratulations to the team. "So proud of our women’s team tonight. Go on girls!"

County Antrim-born peer Kate Hoey said it was "a wonderful result". Those who have contributed to the journey to reach Euro 2022 will be "so proud to remember the long journey from the early days", she added. "Well done to the team and Kenny Shiels and the IFA," she said.

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