Kenny Shiels has revealed there is a real hunger to succeed within his squad ahead of this month’s Women’s Euro 2022 play-off matches against Ukraine.
The Northern Ireland senior women’s team manager says his players want to be competing at the Women’s Euros in England next summer and promised he will do all he can to ensure they are ready for the two play-off games.
Shiels has chosen a 23-strong squad for the matches in Ukraine on Friday 9 April and Belfast on Tuesday 13 April.
It’s the first time the Northern Ireland senior women’s team have reached the play-offs for a major tournament and the manager believes his players are “up for the fight”.
Although he has named a panel packed with experienced international players, the manager is concerned that several members of the squad have not played a competitive match since Northern Ireland secured a play-off berth with a win against Faroe Islands at the start of December.
Northern Ireland-based players, who make up the bulk of his panel, have been training together three times a week in recent months, however Shiels has been unable to organise practice matches for them due to Covid restrictions.
He is also concerned at the “array of talent” not in the squad either through injury or being unavailable due to work commitments. They include Lauren Wade, Demi Vance, Megan Bell, Caragh Milligan, Abbie Magee and Caitlin McGuinness.
However, Shiels insists the members of the panel at his disposal want to reach the Women’s Euros and he promised: “Myself and my backroom team will make sure they are ready and prepared to win games.”
He added: “The players are enthusiastic and they have the belief and the ability to succeed. They will be ready to give everything they have.”
The first of the play-off games is set to be played at the Kolos Stadium in Kovalivka, which is 60 miles from Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. Kick-off time on 9 April is 17:00 GMT.
The second leg is at Seaview in Belfast on 13 April and the kick-off time is 19:45.
The winners of the two-legged play-off will take their place at the Women’s European Championship finals in England next summer.