Northern Ireland captain Marissa Callaghan admits she is still on cloud nine on the back of UEFA Women’s Euro qualification.
The senior women’s skipper was smiling from ear to ear when asked her thoughts on the huge response to the team’s historic achievement delivered at Seaview earlier this month thanks to a 4-1 aggregate win over Ukraine.
“It’s just been a whirlwind of emotion,” she said. “I’ve spoken before about how focused we were in the two games against Ukraine, and we didn’t allow ourselves to think about anything after the games.
“We’ve taken the time to settle down and actually think about what we’ve achieved. It’s amazing what we’ve done. We now look forward to the Euros in England – it’s just incredible thinking about what we’ve done.
“As a squad, we’ve been constantly in the WhatsApp group and we’re asking each other how long we can milk it for! On Saturday night (Belfast) City Hall was lit up green and white for us and a few of the girls went down and got photos there.”
We need to make sure that we get out and about to the local clubs and schools – wherever we can go. We want the young girls to see us and get inspired
Callaghan, a Girls’ Participation Officer at the Irish FA, knows the time is now to build on the momentum sparked by the play-off success and spread the word about the women’s game. She’s determined to do all she can to help inspire and energise a new generation of young girls to give football a go and pursue their dreams.
And she has been wasting little time, already having visited a grassroots club at the weekend and, back in her day job on Monday, helping deliver a new programme, UEFA PlayMakers inspired by Disney.
“We’ve spoken about how we need to do as much as we can for the community and young girls. We need to make sure that we get out and about to the local clubs and schools – wherever we can go. We want the young girls to see us and get inspired. I think that’s the legacy we want to leave in the next year,” she said.
“There have already been a few selfies! I was down in Draperstown on Sunday and there’s lots of young girls and female coaches there who are doing a fantastic job.
“I got down there for 9:30am and there were over 60 girls there and it’s just their second week back which is just amazing. Hopefully right across the country we can get more and more involved.”
Next up for the senior women’s team is Friday’s FIFA Women’s World Cup draw. Keep an eye on the Northern Ireland National Team social media accounts to stay right up to date.