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Watching men’s Euro finals fuelled Sarah McFadden’s sense of wonder


Sarah McFadden is determined to make the most of Northern Ireland's tournament experience

Sarah McFadden is determined to make the most of Northern Ireland's tournament experience

William Cherry/Presseye

Sarah McFadden is determined to make the most of Northern Ireland's tournament experience

As she sat at home in front her television, Sarah McFadden watched the Euro 2020 finals from a different perspective.

Countless times before she’d sat on the same chair looking at the same TV, but never before was she able to put herself in the place of those playing in front of her.

Casting her mind forward a year, McFadden began to dream of what might happen when Northern Ireland arrive on the biggest stage they have ever played on at Women’s Euro 2022.

Dreaming of taking what is already an amazing story of achieving what was thought to be impossible and writing one more thrilling story.

“I haven’t even been able to imagine being there because it has always felt so far away,” said McFadden, whose married name is Robson but who is subject to a curious rule that means she plays international football under her maiden name.

“We’ve had so much going on since we qualified, but once the tournament comes around we will appreciate it and we want it to last as long as possible.

“I know it is a big ask to get out of the group, but all I think all the time is just if we could extend our stay there.

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“I was watching the men’s Euros last summer and as it was going on, I was thinking that I would love to get out of the group and when it was getting down to fewer and fewer teams left that I would love to be one of those teams enjoying those latter stages and enjoying being part of the tournament.

“I don’t want it to just be over in a flash. I have waited all my life for this and even the younger girls may never get another opportunity and I just want it to last as long as possible and be able to continue that journey that we are on.

“I just don’t want it to come to an end.

“I am just hoping that we stay in the tournament as long as we can so we can enjoy it a bit more.”

McFadden’s 17-year international career has been anything but normal.

She started as a striker, a powerhouse of a number nine and a real handful for defenders.

As time went on, she dropped back into midfield, having enough in her all-round game to be a creator capable of making things happen as well as a ball-winner who would stop the opposition from playing.

It was in that position that she excelled in both legs of the famous Euro play-off victory over Ukraine.

Since then, however, she has become a defensive stalwart, with manager Kenny Shiels knowing that he can rely on her to lead from the back.

Facing top-class strikers comes with the territory of playing in defence.

That might fill some players with fear and trepidation, but not Bellaghy brave McFadden.

“It’s brilliant for me to be on this stage and I love it,” she said.

“That’s what you play for. that’s what we train so hard for and I don’t think people realise how hard we work and to be able to say that you’ve competed with those players is really self-satisfying.”

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