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'True gladiators': The Northern Ireland internationals fighting the coronavirus on NHS frontline



Nadene Caldwell

Nadene Caldwell

Stephen Hamilton/Presseye

Heroes of the game: Julie Nelson has played alongside and against a host of footballers who also work for the NHS

Heroes of the game: Julie Nelson has played alongside and against a host of footballers who also work for the NHS

Stephen Hamilton/Presseye

Nadene Caldwell

Northern Ireland international Julie Nelson has hailed those on the frontline fighting coronavirus as "true gladiators".

Among the current internationals working for the National Health Service is Nadene Caldwell, who has won more than 50 caps for her country.

Caldwell, who also captains Northern Ireland's international women's futsal team and plays for Glentoran Women, works at Belfast City Hospital.

Crusaders Strikers defender Nelson, who was the first woman in Northern Ireland to win 100 caps for her country, said her current and former team-mates were showing "remarkable bravery" in the face of the pandemic.

"I think what they are doing is incredibly brave. While the rest of us are working at home and staying at home in a bid to stop the virus spreading, they are out there putting their lives at risk to help others. They are true gladiators," she said.

Midfielder Caldwell has not featured in the senior women's team since she had a sojourn in Australia for a couple of years and then picked up an injury on her return to Northern Ireland.

However, she was included in manager Kenny Shiels' squad for the home Euro qualifier against Wales last year and just missed out on being selected for the squad that competed at the Pinatar Cup in Spain last month.

Also delivering essential services in the frontline at present are Nelson's centre back partner for Northern Ireland, fellow centurion Ashley Hutton (Linfield Ladies), and international striker Alison Smyth (Linfield Ladies), whose long term aim is to get back in the green and white shirt following an horrific injury.

Three other members of the international women's futsal team are also helping to tackle the pandemic.

Instead of looking forward to European qualifiers in Lithuania in early May - against Serbia, Lithuania and Slovakia - Erin Hennity is facing the bigger challenge of thwarting the virus. The Comber Rec Ladies defender works in the Ulster Hospital, Dundonald.

Her Northern Ireland team-mate Hannah Henderson, who operates in midfield for Ballymena United All Stars, is on the front line at the Royal Hospital in Belfast, while midfielder Louise McFrederick (Linfield Ladies) is providing essential services.

Former Northern Ireland internationals stepping up to the plate include Lisa Armour (Crusaders Strikers), who is a nurse at the Royal, while Hayley O'Donnell (Linfield Ladies) and Kendra McMullan, whose career cut short last year through injury, are both working for the NHS in the west of Northern Ireland.

Also operating in hospitals in that area of the country is former international Chloe McGlade (Sion Swifts Ladies), who is a radiographer, while Makayla Mulholland (Glentoran Women) is a trainee nurse with the NHS on the North Coast.

And ex-Northern Ireland captain Dr Aine Macdonald, sister of Northern Ireland goalkeeper Michael McGovern, is helping to save lives with the NHS in Scotland.

Due to the evolving situation around Covid-19, the senior women's team were due to play Euro qualifiers against Belarus away this month and then Belarus and Faroe Islands at home in June, however all three matches have now been postponed to unconfirmed dates.

Belfast Telegraph