Northern Ireland senior women’s team manager Kenny Shiels has chosen a 23-strong squad to take part in a training camp in Spain this month which includes three training matches.
The 10-day camp at the Marbella Football Centre on the Costa del Sol is due to run from 14 to 23 February.
As part of the camp Northern Ireland are set to face Faroe Islands, Switzerland and Romania in friendlies at the Marbella venue. The game against the Faroese is on 17 February, while they will face the Swiss on 20 February. The match against the Romanians is scheduled for 23 February.
Shiels’ squad for Spain is a mixture of players who are now training full time in Northern Ireland, on Irish FA contracts, ahead of this summer’s Women’s Euros and those playing professionally in England and Scotland.
The manager has made six changes from the panel chosen for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 qualifiers against North Macedonia in Skopje and Belfast back in November.
Rangers Women midfielder Megan Bell is the most notable returnee to the squad.
Bell has had a tough two years with injuries, however she has been playing regularly for Rangers in the Scottish Women’s Premier League since Christmas and started alongside her international team-mate Demi Vance in Rangers’ 3-1 win over title rivals Glasgow City at the weekend.
Also returning to the fold after a lengthy spell on the sidelines is Linfield Ladies defender Abbie Magee. She has now completed nine months’ rehabilitation after suffering a knee ligament injury.
Crusaders Striker Emily Wilson and Glentoran Women midfielder Sam Kelly are back as well after a period on the sidelines.
The players missing out this time include the Crusaders Strikers trio of goalkeeper Maddy Harvey-Clifford, defender Rachel McLaren and veteran defender Julie Nelson, who is recovering from an injury.
Midfielders Louise McDaniel (Cliftonville Ladies) and Ciara Watling (Southampton) also miss out along with Glentoran Women midfielder Caragh Hamilton, who is on her way back to full fitness after picking up an injury.
Cliftonville Ladies defender Toni-Leigh Finnegan is another player currently on the road to recovery after being injured. The trip has come just a little too early for her, according to the manager.
And it’s a similar scenario for veteran defender Ashley Hutton, who is also part of the 22-strong group now training full time in Belfast under Irish FA contracts. Hutton is still in recovery mode after sustaining a knee ligament injury.
The camp in Spain will help Shiels, his coaching staff and the players prepare for two crunch World Cup qualifiers in April. First up in European Qualifying Group D is an away game against Austria on Friday 8 April followed by a clash with table toppers England at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park on Tuesday 12 April.
Northern Ireland Women squad for February 2022 training camp in Spain:
Goalkeepers: Jackie Burns (Lee University, USA), Becky Flaherty (Huddersfield Town Women).
Defenders: Kelsie Burrows (Cliftonville Ladies), Rebecca McKenna (Lewes Women), Rebecca Holloway (Birmingham City Women), Abbie Magee (Linfield Ladies), Sarah McFadden (Durham Women), Demi Vance (Rangers Women), Laura Rafferty (Southampton Women).
Midfielders: Nadene Caldwell, Chloe McCarron, Joely Andrews and Sam Kelly (all Glentoran Women), Marissa Callaghan (Cliftonville Ladies), Megan Bell (Rangers Women), Rachel Furness (Liverpool Women).
Forwards: Lauren Wade and Danielle Maxwell (both Glentoran Women), Kirsty McGuinness and Caitlin McGuinness (both Cliftonville Ladies), Simone Magill (Everton Women), Kerry Beattie (Glasgow City), Emily Wilson (Crusaders Strikers).