Northern Ireland Women’s manager Kenny Shiels has issued an apology for his post-match comments following their defeat to England on Tuesday night.
After their 5-0 loss at Windsor Park, Shiels claimed that the reason his side conceded more goals in quick succession than in the men’s game was because “women are more emotional than men”.
The Northern Ireland manager went on to claim that the issue was widespread in the women's game, arguing that “all countries” have that “problem”.
Those comments were widely criticised across both the football and non-footballing world, with Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill and Arsenal legend Ian Wright among those posting on social media in defence of the team.
This afternoon Shiels, via the Irish Football Association, released a statement apologising for what he said.
“I wish to apologise for my comments made in the post-match press conference last night. I am sorry for the offence that they have caused,” said Shiels.
“Last night was a special occasion for the women’s game in Northern Ireland and I am proud to manage a group of players who are role models for so many girls, and boys, across the country.
“I am an advocate for the women's game and passionate about developing opportunities for women and girls to flourish.”
In response to Shiels’ comments, Sinn Fein Vice President Michelle O’Neill took to Twitter to write: “Some accuse women of being too emotional for all walks of life; politics, business, sports. If powerful emotions of passion, hard work, resilience and determination to succeed are what’s being referred to here, then keep being class women.”
Meanwhile, Wright, also on Twitter, added: “Kenny Shiels talking foolishness! Talking about emotional women ! Didn’t that man see how many times I was crying on the PITCH! kmt”
Shiels’ choice of words put a real dampener on what was a fantastic night for his side as, despite the result, they made history by becoming the first women’s team on these shores to sell out the National Stadium, playing in front of 15,348 fans.
They defended bravely for large periods of the game against the best-ranked nation in the world, but ultimately goals from Lauren Hemp (2), Georgia Stanway (2) and Ella Toone gave England the 5-0 win.
Northern Ireland needed to avoid defeat against Group D leaders England to keep their slim hopes of progressing to Australia and New Zealand next year alive.
While they can still move level on points with second-placed Austria, Northern Ireland's inferior head-to-head record has extinguished any chance of leapfrogging their rivals into the only play-off berth.
"In the women's game, you’ll have noticed, if you go through the patterns, when a team concedes a goal they concede a second within a very short period of time,” Shiels said in his post-match press conference.
“Right through the whole spectrum of the women's game, because girls and women are more emotional than men, so they take a goal going in, they don’t take that very well.
“If you go through the stats...you’ll see teams conceding goals on 18 and 21 minutes and then in 64 and 68 minutes, they group them, because that’s an emotional goal.
“So we conceded on 48, we had three in seven or nine minutes on Friday and we were conscious of that. When we went one nil down we killed the game and tried to just slow it right down to give them time to get that emotional imbalance out of their head.
“That’s an issue we have, not just Northern Ireland, but all the countries, with that problem. I shouldn’t have told you that.”