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Northern Ireland's 'crazy' Women's Euro dream is getting bigger ahead of play-off second leg, admits Jackie Burns

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Northern Ireland goalkeeper Jackie Burns has a laugh with back-up stopper Becky Flaherty as momentum builds ahead of Tuesday's all-important game.

Northern Ireland goalkeeper Jackie Burns has a laugh with back-up stopper Becky Flaherty as momentum builds ahead of Tuesday's all-important game.

Northern Ireland goalkeeper Jackie Burns has a laugh with back-up stopper Becky Flaherty as momentum builds ahead of Tuesday's all-important game.

Jackie Burns is expecting Northern Ireland to face an onslaught from a wounded Ukraine before they can make what was once considered an impossible dream a reality.

The emotion after a fantastic 2-1 win in Kovalivka on Friday night - a result that has put Kenny Shiels' girls in the driving seat for a place in the Women's Euro 2022 Finals - went quickly from joy to a realisation that the job is only half done.

Now, with the crucial return leg to come at Seaview on Tuesday, the attention of the Northern Ireland players has turned to ensuring they are prepared for everything that their eastern European opponents will throw at them in an attempt to turn the tie around.

"We've had to go from being pretty happy to remembering to keep focused and get the mentality straight going into Tuesday, to be ready against a team that will be coming out a bit annoyed and looking to prove a point," said Burns.

"Every game you expect your opponent to come out and with us getting the win in the away leg they will want to prove a point for themselves.

"We are going to expect them to come out and leave everything on the pitch because they are going to want to win, and they need to win.

"We want to win too and it's important for us to keep our mentality straight, know what is going to happen and be prepared for it."

The dream edged a lot closer after Simone Magill struck the winner to follow the Rachel Furness strike that Ukraine cancelled out in the first half.

After seeing what the Ukrainians are made of, Burns is beginning to ponder achieving what she thought only Northern Ireland's men could do after seeing their heroics at Euro 2016.

"You don't really know what to expect going into the first game," she admitted.

"You're going in as underdogs and not really setting the bar high, but now we've got a result you are having that bit more belief and bit more drive that it could happen. I'll admit that we are thinking we are one game away and one result away from possibly qualifying for a major tournament.

"It's crazy to think because you only ever really think of the men doing that and for the women to do that it would be amazing. The dream is getting a bit bigger."

Burns could do little about the Ukraine equaliser midway through the first half on Friday and that won't take away from an impressive 90 minutes, which was capped by a wonderful fingertip save at the end.

The scenario now sounds simple: if she can come away with a clean sheet then Burns and her team-mates will make history by taking Northern Ireland to a first major Finals in the women's game.

All that matters to her is winning - personal glory would be the icing on the cake.

"Just thinking about the fact that if I keep a clean sheet we'll be going to the Euros brings a big smile to my face," said Burns. "As long as we are on our game defensively and keep focused, a clean sheet would be a highlight."


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