Joely Andrews is on the crest of a wave. Over the past couple of years, the midfielder has won multiple trophies with Glentoran, made her Northern Ireland senior debut, scored at international level, faced England at Windsor Park and she has now been named the Women’s Player of the Year at the Ulster Footballer of the Year (UFOTY) Awards, sponsored by Belfast Audi.
To think Andrews only turned 20 last month. You just know there is much more to come from this bright young talent, including an historic trip to the European Championship finals with Northern Ireland in the summer.
Andrews was stunned to land the prestigious UFOTY prize but she earned it for dynamic displays during Glentoran Women’s treble triumph last season when they won the Premiership, Challenge Cup and County Antrim Cup.
It was at Antrim Primary School that Manchester United fan Andrews started playing football, joining the Glens when she was eight years old, featuring in different positions before settling into her midfield role.
In 2020, her dream of playing for Northern Ireland came true and since then she has grabbed the international opportunity with both hands, so much so that manager Kenny Shiels gave Andrews a first competitive start in April’s 5-0 defeat to England in World Cup qualifying in front of 15,000 fans at Windsor, just days after she scored her opening goal at the highest level versus Austria.
“Playing for Northern Ireland is amazing. I made by debut in 2020 against the Faroe Islands having grown up watching the team so to be part of the squad is an honour. There is a great team atmosphere, I love being around the girls and it is fantastic to represent your country,” says Andrews.
“Starting against England at Windsor last month is something I’ll never forget. It was so special. To be able to play such a top side at home in front of 15,000 people was amazing.
“Nobody, including myself, would have thought something like that was possible so to get the opportunity to be on the pitch was incredible. The result wasn’t what we wanted but there was a lot we can take from that game into the summer.”
Hosts England will be opponents once again at the Euros along with Austria and Norway for Shiels’ inspirational side, who have captured the hearts of the nation with their history making exploits.
“Since Kenny has come in, we have come on leaps and bounds and it was a massive achievement to qualify for a major tournament,” adds Andrews, who is part of the Irish FA’s full-time training programme to prepare for Euro 2022.
“Kenny has given our group of players so much. He has made us believe in ourselves and we can’t thank him and the coaching staff enough for all they have done.
“I can’t wait for the tournament. I am lucky because when I came into the squad, I made my debut in the campaign in which we qualified so I got an easier route to a major championships than a lot of the other girls. Some have been around for 15 years and have waited a long time for this.”
Studying Psychology at Ulster University in Coleraine, Andrews lauds parents Alison and Mark and sister Zoe for their support, adding that one day she would welcome a shot at full-time football across the water, stating: “That’s an aspiration of mine to go and get the experience of playing semi-pro or pro though right now my focus is on Glentoran and an exciting summer with Northern Ireland.”