In the run-up to the Women’s Euro 2022 play-off matches in April we are highlighting the players who have helped the Northern Ireland senior women’s squad reach the play-offs for a major tournament for the first time in the team’s history.
The history of women’s football in Northern Ireland shows that there has always been a willingness by clubs – and on the international front – to give youth a chance.
And Everton Women striker Simone Magill is a prime example of youth being allowed to flourish.
She made her debut for the Northern Ireland senior women’s team in 2010 at the age of just 15 in a friendly against Scotland and, despite some injury setbacks along the way, has gone on to win 61 senior caps for her country to date.
Although she missed the final two matches in Qualifying Group C through injury she definitely made her mark in the four-match winning run which secured an historic Women’s Euro play-off berth.
In the first of those matches, away to Faroe Islands, she grabbed a double in a 6-0 win, and she subsequently played in the away qualifier against Belarus, which Northern Ireland won 1-0. The run was completed with home victories against Belarus (3-2) and the Faroes (5-1).
Simone, who is originally from Magherafelt, says her proudest moment in football to date is winning her 50th cap for Northern Ireland - she reached the milestone when playing against Jordan in the Gold City Cup in Turkey at the start of 2019 - and she undoubtedly has the 100-mark in her sights.
As her career developed the striker also found time to score six goals and win five caps with Northern Ireland Women’s Under-17s and notched 14 goals for the WU19s, for whom she earned 21 caps. Her tally for the senior team so far is 15 goals.
And in June 2016 Simone claimed a world record by scoring the fastest ever goal in international women's football in a European qualifier against Georgia. The 11-second goal beat the previous 12-second record set by US forward Alex Morgan.
Now aged 26, Magill started playing football at the age of four. She played with the boys at Cookstown Youth before joining Mid-Ulster Ladies FC, for whom she starred for a couple of seasons in what was then known as the Women’s Premier League (now Danske Bank Women’s Premiership).
She finished the 2012 season as the top scorer in Northern Ireland’s top flight – on 18 goals – and that attracted the attention of Everton.
Following a successful trial she moved to Everton in 2013 and subsequently signed a full-time professional contract with the FA Women’s Super League side in 2017.
Simone was the Everton Women fans' player of the season in 2014-15, while in May 2019 she won Everton Women’s player of the season award.
On the international front she reckons Sweden are the best team she has played against, while Wembley (for Everton Women v Manchester City Women in the 2020 Women’s FA Cup final) is the best pitch she has played on. And she considers Ji So-yun (Chelsea and South Korea) and Kim Little (Arsenal and Scotland) to be the most difficult opponents she has faced to date.
The Manchester United fan, whose favourite player is former Man U star David Beckham, lists Sir Alex Ferguson as her favourite manager/coach.
She also says her family have provided her with plenty of inspiration during her career, while her advice to young players starting out in the game is: “Hard work will beat talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”