Northern Ireland are set to begin their quest for a place at next year’s Women’s Under-19 European Championship.
Fresh from playing as hosts in the 2017 WU19 Euros, the Women’s U19s will this week be taking part in a qualifying round for the 2018 finals.
The qualifying competition is being staged in Portugal and first up for the U19s are the host nation. They will also be taking on Norway and Cyprus.
The winners of the competition in Portugal will advance to an elite round next spring. And the runners-up also have a chance to make it to the elite round as one of the best runners-up. Seven nations will ultimately advance from the elite round to the finals in Switzerland along with the host nation.
Northern Ireland’s first game in Qualifying Group 5 is being staged tomorrow at the Fontelo Municipal Stadium in Viseu. The game kicks off at 4pm local time.
Next up are Norway on Friday (20 October) at the Municipal Stadium in Nelas (2pm start), while the final game against Cyprus takes place at the same venue next Monday (23 October) at 3pm.
Women’s U19s manager Alfie Wylie said: “This tournament represents another very difficult challenge for us as we come in as the third ranked country with the big guns of Norway and hosts Portugal in our group.
“However it is also an opportunity for the players who took part in the UEFA U19 Finals in Northern Ireland back in the summer to show how much they have learnt from that experience. It’s also an opportunity for nine new players who did not play in the finals an opportunity to play against and with top players.”
He added that all of the Northern Ireland players are looking forward to the games.
But the team’s preparations have been disrupted due to bush fires in the Viseu area of Portugal where they are staying.
The manager revealed: “The smoke from the fires means that it is difficult to breathe at times and both training sessions today were called off.”
Northern Ireland Squad: Goalkeepers – Caoimhe Callaghan (Cliftonville), Beth Hopwood (Linlithgow Rose);
Defenders – Abbie Magee (Linfield), Caitlyn Hamilton (Crusaders), Yasmin White (Glentoran), Lauren Robson (Linfield), Isobel Coppel (Leicester City), Niamh Ruddy (Crusaders), Chloe Atkins (Toronto Lynx, Canada);
Midfielders – Emma McMaster (Cliftonville), Chelsea Cochrane (Cardiff City), Chloe Orr (Mid-Ulster), Brenna McPartlan (Manchester City), Caitlin Colligan (Southampton), Megan Beattie (Crusaders);
Forwards – Louise McDaniel-Crawford (Linfield), Morganne Beggs (Mid-Ulster); Rebecca Bassett (Mid-Ulster); Leyla McFarland (San Diego Surf, USA), Miagh Downey (Ipswich Town).