An exhibit focusing on the history of women’s football in Northern Ireland has been officially launched at the Education and Heritage Centre within the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park.
The display contains several pieces of memorabilia linked to women’s football here and the Northern Ireland senior women’s international team, including match programmes covering a 40-year period.
And it also features a pair of match-worn boots and a shirt from Rachel Furness, Northern Ireland’s all-time leading goalscorer.
Northern Ireland internationals Sarah McFadden and Jackie Burns helped to officially launch the exhibit.
The pair popped along to the stadium during a special VIP Tour which was the prize in a competition designed to unveil the collection of memorabilia.
Niamh Keough (13) from Bangor Swifts Juniors in Co Down was the winner of the competition, which encouraged kids to send a message to the Northern Ireland senior women’s team on a postcard.
Her message to the team urged the players to show young girls that football is “not just a boys’ sport but for everyone, and we are just as good, if not better”.
Niamh’s prize was the VIP Tour for her and her team-mates. It included a visit to the Education and Heritage Centre where they met Sarah and Jackie. And they arrived at the stadium in style – on the official Northern Ireland team bus.
The Bangor girls got to take photos and have a Q&A session with the two internationals. The players talked about their experiences at the UEFA Women’s Euros back in the summer and offered some advice about how players can improve their game.
Afterwards Sarah said: “Whenever we finished at the Euros, we all went back to our clubs and didn’t get to see the impact of what we’d actually done. It was great to be able to see these young girls and to realise that we did inspire.”
Irish FA tour guide Noel Keenan said the new display “will do a great job at showcasing the history of women’s football and also inspiring the young players that are coming in to view the display, as well as the tour itself”.
Noel felt going on the tour would “do wonders” for the confidence of the Bangor girls and encourage them to work hard, enjoy their game, keep developing and “be part of this journey that women’s football is on in Northern Ireland”.
Mark McAlister, the Visitor Experience Co-ordinator at the Irish FA, explained: “We hope that visitors on the tour can find out some facts about the women’s game which they did not know beforehand.
“For example, the first ever women’s international football match was held at Grosvenor Park in Belfast on Boxing Day 1917 in front of 20,000 spectators between teams from Ireland and England.
- To celebrate the launch of the new women’s football display, Irish FA Tours is offering a 15% discount on all public tour bookings made throughout this month (October) via www.irishfa.com/tours when the discount code ANEWDREAM15 is used at checkout.