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Win over Slovaks can kick-start qualifying campaign: Callaghan

 

By Laure James

Northern Ireland have buried early woes from their Fifa Women’s World Cup qualifying campaign and are gunning for three points against Slovakia, Marissa Callaghan said.

Alfie Wylie’s troops travel to Slovakia tomorrow for their third tie in Group Three, following defeats to table-toppers Norway and the Republic of Ireland.

“It took us quite a long time to get over that last camp to be honest, we were quite disappointed and know we should have gone out there more positively to have gotten a result,” skipper Callaghan said.

“But we’ve moved on now and things are much more relaxed and positive around the team.

“We have also been in Northern Ireland for our training camp before flying to Slovakia which has helped to keep things familiar, so we’re very focused.”

Slovakia fell to a 5-0 defeat to European champions the Netherlands last night and remain rooted to the bottom of the group, beneath Northern Ireland.

“We’ve done a bit of homework on them and analysed how they play so we’re going to use our strengths to counteract their weaknesses,” Callaghan added.

“We’ve concentrated heavily on our game-plan so we hope to get all three points and our campaign underway.

“I was involved in the backroom with the under-19 side during the finals in August, and in that tournament in the summer we saw such a rapid development.

“We’ve had seven youth players with us during the camp, and while not all of them will go to Slovakia, it’s really great to have them around and get them involved in senior preparations from a young age.”

One young prospect who has made the step up from the youth structure is Brenna McPartlan.

Keen to impress, the 18-year old says the competitive nature of senior international football carries a different emphasis than her life at Manchester City’s development squad.

“It’s all about results now,” the midfielder says.

“It’s a massive step but it’s a great opportunity for me to get more experience with better players.

“It’s been good so far, we’ve had a lot of sessions and I’ve learned a lot but it’s much more intense.

“It’s quite different to the club, although I do train once a week with the senior squad there. It’s tough but you get used to it.”

Meanwhile U19 ace Emma McMaster, jetted to Uefa’s headquarters to make the WU19 Euro 2018 elite round draw in Switzerland yesterday.

She captained the Northern Ireland team at last year’s finals and their outstanding sporting behaviour on the pitch earned them the Respect Fair Play award.

McMaster was handed the honour of drawing the next qualifying round, while accepting the gong on her team’s behalf.

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