Northern Ireland senior women’s team manager Kenny Shiels has strengthened his panel for two FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 qualifiers later this month by welcoming back senior players who have been missing from recent squads.
Talismanic Liverpool attacking midfielder Rachel Furness returns to the fold after recovering from the broken leg she sustained in the first leg of the Women’s Euro 2022 play-off against Ukraine back in April.
Also returning is Demi Vance of Rangers, the experienced full back/midfielder who has recovered from an anterior cruciate ligament injury which she picked up in a Euro qualifier against Belarus last November.
They are joined in the 23-strong panel by Glentoran Women attacking midfielder Caragh Milligan, who has overcome a long-term injury, and Cliftonville Ladies striker Caitlin McGuinness, who last featured in a squad back in December.
Cliftonville Ladies defender Kelsie Burrows, Glentoran Women striker Danielle Maxwell and young Crusaders Strikers goalkeeper Maddy Harvey-Clifford have returned to the fold as well.
Missing from Shiels’ panel this time due to injury is young Cliftonville Ladies defender Toni-Leigh Finnegan.
Other players missing out – all were in the squad chosen to face Scotland in early summer – include Glentoran trio Joely Andrews, Sam Kelly and Casey Howe along with Cliftonville defender Fi Morgan and Lisburn Rangers defender Ella Haughey.
And still recovering from long term injuries are Rangers Women midfielder Megan Bell and Linfield Ladies pair Ashley Hutton and Abbie Magee, while Everton Women striker Simone Magill is injured, too.
Northern Ireland begin their quest for a place at the Women’s World Cup in 2023 – it is being hosted by Australia and New Zealand – with a qualifier against Luxembourg at Inver Park in Larne next Friday (17 September).
And four days later (Tuesday 21 September) they will face Latvia at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park. Both games kick off at 19.00.
It will be Luxembourg’s first ever fixture in a full qualifying stage for a major tournament, while Latvia will be looking to get off to a good start following a poor showing in the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 qualifiers.
The other teams in European Qualifying Group D are England, Austria and North Macedonia.
After the two games this month Kenny Shiels will prepare his side for a trip to Wembley where they are due to face top seeds England on 23 October and then it’s back home for a qualifier against Austria, the second seeds in the group, on 26 October.
Goalkeepers: Jackie Burns (Lee University/Glentoran Women), Becky Flaherty (Huddersfield Town Women), Maddy Harvey-Clifford (Crusaders Strikers).
Defenders: Julie Nelson (Crusaders Strikers), Rebecca McKenna (Lewes Women), Rebecca Holloway (Birmingham City Women), Laura Rafferty (Southampton Women), Kelsie Burrows (Cliftonville Ladies), Demi Vance (Rangers Women).
Midfielders: Marissa Callaghan and Louise McDaniel (both Cliftonville Ladies), Nadene Caldwell, Chloe McCarron and Caragh Hamilton (all Glentoran Women), Rachel Furness (Liverpool Women), Sarah McFadden (Durham Women), Ciara Watling (Southampton Women).
Forwards: Kerry Beattie, Danielle Maxwell and Lauren Wade (all Glentoran Women), Caitlin McGuinness (Cliftonville Ladies), Kirsty McGuinness (Cliftonville Ladies), Emily Wilson (Crusaders Strikers).