Kenny Shiels’ first squad as manager of Northern Ireland’s senior women’s team is a mix of solid experience, new faces and a smattering of exciting young talent, reports irishfa.com.
Northern Ireland face Norway on Friday 30 August at Seaview Stadium in Belfast (7.45pm). Four days later (Tuesday 3 September) his team will be taking on Wales at Rodney Parade in Newport (7pm).
Norway are the top seeds in Qualifying Group C, while the Welsh are second seeds. Northern Ireland, seeded fourth, will also face Belarus (third seeds) and Faroe Islands (fifth seeds) in the qualifiers.
Shiels has chosen five players in his squad who have yet to make their competitive debuts for the senior women’s team. They include Leicester City Women’s defender Natalie Johnson, who featured in two friendlies earlier this year, and Linfield midfielder Chloe McCarron, who last played for Northern Ireland in three friendlies back in 2015.
New to the senior squad are Birmingham City midfielder Rebecca Holloway, who has previously featured for the U-19s, and Sion Swifts defender Claragh Connor. Defender Yasmin White (Glentoran), once a mainstay of the U-19s, has been in senior squads before but has yet to start at senior level.
The remainder of the squad is made up of experienced internationals such as Julie Nelson, captain Marissa Callaghan, Ashley Hutton, Sarah McFadden and Rachel Furness alongside younger players like Megan Bell, who moved from Linfield to Durham this summer, and her former club team-mate Rebecca McKenna.
Nine group winners, plus three runners-up with the best records, will automatically qualify for the Women’s Euros in England in 2021. The other six runners-up will play off in October 2020 for the remaining three berths in the 16-team finals.