Green shoots should keep on growing in Northern Ireland women's football

Kenny Archer

Kenny Archer

Kenny is the deputy sports editor and a Liverpool FC fan.

Northern Ireland's Sarah McFadden with the fans after Monday's Women's Euros match against Austria at St Mary's Stadium, Southampton. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Northern Ireland's Sarah McFadden with the fans after Monday's Women's Euros match against Austria at St Mary's Stadium, Southampton. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

AS one can't plagiarise oneself, I seriously considered repeating the famous intro to my first whiskey/ whisky column.

It would have been easier for me to make this entirely an homage to the novel 'A Void', the English version of 'La Disparition', ironically by Georges Perec, written entirely without the letter 'e'.

Yep, in a serious first world problem, the 'e' key has come off my laptop keyboard.

Yep, just the most common letter in the English language.

The struggle is real.

But, readers, I got on with it. Despite the pain in my left typing finger.

Long-winded preamble over and done with, the point is that you can only work with what you have.

That's what the Northern Ireland Women have had to do.

Everyone knew that anything other than three defeats in Group A would be another achievement, on top of the remarkable feat of reaching their first Euros.

Yet although Northern Ireland are often up against it, the loss of Simone Magill was a horrible body blow, not just for her but for her international colleagues.

The only centre-forward in the squad, the new signing for Aston Villa was notable by her absence against Austria on Monday evening, as the ball simply wouldn't 'stick' up front.

Lauren Wade is a willing, skilful runner, but out wide, the same going for Kirsty McGuinness on the left flank.

Captain Marissa Callaghan, typically, tried valiantly as a 'false nine', but she's much better coming forward from deeper in midfield. Top scorer Rachel Furness has dropped into midfield for some time and doesn't look sharp, for some reason.

Emily Wilson is only 20, Caitlin McGuinness still a teenager, and lacking the physique to play centrally at this level.

Perhaps a place should have been found on the panel for Kerry Beattie, but hindsight is a wonderful bonus unavailable to squad selectors.

In truth, even without Simone, NI have done as well as could have been expected.

Sure, Norway's quality may be re-assessed after their 8-0 thrashing by England, but the Scandinavians' strengths are in attack and their weaknesses at the back, a difficult combination for NI to come up against.

Austria, as they showed in the tournament opener against England, a 1-0 loss at Old Trafford, are hard to break down. Eventually they just outlasted NI in the searing heat at St Mary's.

England will be toughest of all, even - perhaps, especially - if Sarina Wiegmann sends out a second string, who may all be keen to impress and push for a place in the quarter-final.

The atmosphere has been excellent, and that's with attendances of 'only' around 9,000 for the two NI games so far.

The 'Sweet Caroline' derby will be another level altogether, with a sell-out crowd of around 32,500, and even the 'Green and White Army' might be out-sung by the home support.

One positive is that Northern Ireland are listed as the 'home' team at last so will finally get to wear green, having had to change to their other, white kit, in order to avoid clashes for colour-blind viewers with teams wearing red.

As long as the sun doesn't bleach the pitch too much, that might help NI pop up unexpectedly and close gaps, cut out passes, and block shots to keep the scoreline down against the mighty English.


I may be in an extremely small minority, but I believe Kerry's Sean O'Shea was very fortunate to escape without any sanction for colliding with Dublin goalkeeper Evan Comerford a split-second after the latter saved his penalty kick.

Arguably the Kingdom star was guilty of breaching Rule 5.16, 'To kick or attempt to kick an opponent, with minimal force.'

He certainly kicked the loose ball into the grounded Comerford's midriff. He also caught him in the face with his left boot as he followed through.

The latter act was surely unintentional, but - as with so many ambiguous GAA rules, intent isn't actually mentioned.

In my view O'Shea definitely breached 5.17, 'To behave in any way which is dangerous to an opponent.'

He should have pulled out of his attempt to kick the low ball to the net once he saw that Comerford's body was in the way. Even if you insist that he had a right to go for that, he was out of control with his left foot connecting with his opponent's head.

Players have been sent off, correctly, for far less.

The punishment for both those infractions listed above is a red card; somehow O'Shea didn't even see yellow.

Of course he then kicked the winning free…

Perhaps there was some sort of rough justice that Comerford got hurt after pretending to be hurt before the spot-kick was taken. His feigning of injury then should have been punished by a booking. He was obviously only trying to run down the clock on his colleague John Small's time in the sin-bin and also attempting to put off O'Shea; both cynical acts succeeded.

It's beyond debate that the 10 minutes in the sin-bin needs to be enforced much more strictly, as Kerry boss Jack O'Connor pointed out afterwards, able to make his case without being accused of sour grapes.

It would be another burden for the referee or the fourth official to stop the clock ticking when there is obvious time-wasting, or an unforeseen delay, but it's long past the time for something to be done to counter-act such clear cynicism.