Sign up to the Irish FA Newsletter today

Keep up-to-date with all the latest news from the Irish FA including ticket updates, match information, competitions, articles and much more.
Thank you

Wednesday 27 Dec 2023
2023 review: Northern Ireland senior women's team

There was a topsy-turvy start to the year for the Northern Ireland senior women’s team, while the latter part of 2023 was all about laying the foundations for the future.

In February Kenny Shiels left the role of manager. During his tenure Shiels, who was appointed by the Irish FA in 2019, guided the senior women’s team to a first ever major tournament, UEFA Women’s Euro 2022.

On his departure Irish FA Chief Executive Patrick Nelson said: "Kenny’s impact on the women’s and girls’ game in Northern Ireland has been transformative. Securing that historic qualification to the Euros is forever etched in Irish FA history.”

His successor, Tanya Oxtoby, was not appointed until the end of August.

It meant the team had a couple of interim managers during the year.

Andy Waterworth, Head of Elite Player Development at the association, took charge in April when they faced Wales in a friendly in Cardiff.

The Welsh largely bossed the game at the Cardiff City Stadium and ran out 4-1 winners. Lauren Wade scored an excellent goal in the second half for Northern Ireland, who looked nervy in the first half but improved after the break.

Next up were two friendlies in July – away to Scotland and Czechia (Czech Republic). Gail Redmond, Northern Ireland’s WU19s and WU17s boss, was in charge for those games.

They lost 3-0 to the Scots at Kilmac Stadium (Dens Park) in Dundee. All three goals were scored within a seven-minute period in the first half.

A few days later Redmond’s side produced an excellent performance to defeat Czechia 2-0 in Opava. The goals came from Sarah McFadden and Kerry Beattie.

The following month Tanya Oxtoby was appointed as the new manager of the senior women’s team. The Australian signed a four-year contract with the association.

Her previous jobs included assistant coach at Chelsea Women and manager of fellow FA Women’s Super League side Bristol City Women. She also coached with England at youth level and was assistant coach with Scotland Women in 2021.

Her first game in charge was against Republic of Ireland in September in the inaugural UEFA Women’s Nations League.

The Republic dominated the League B Group 1 encounter in front of a record crowd of 35,944, including 1200 fans from Northern Ireland, at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. The top seeds in the group won the game 3-0.

Next up the same month was a match against Albania Women at Seaview.

Wade scored the only goal, however Northern Ireland missed some gilt-edged chances across the piece.

Defender Sarah McFadden donned the captain’s armband as she earned her 100th cap, while winger Wade wore it for the second half to mark her 50th cap.

In October Oxtoby’s team had a double header with Hungary, the third seeds in the group.

They were cruelly defeated in the first game – at the Gyirmoti Stadion in Gyor. They twice came from behind to level against the Hungarians but a goal deep into injury time gave the home side a 3-2 victory. Caragh Hamilton and Simone Magill were on target for Oxtoby’s team.

The reverse fixture ended in a 1-1 draw at Seaview, in which Hungary again proved to be tricky and strong opponents.

The Hungarians took the lead in the 56th minute. On 80 minutes Danielle Maxwell netted the equaliser. Magill battled for the ball and teed her up and Maxwell blasted the ball into the top of the net. It was a cracking goal and her first at senior international level.

At the start of this month (December) Northern Ireland produced a great display as they defeated Albania Women 4-0 in Tirana.

They showed a ruthless streak in securing all three points in their penultimate B1 game at Arena Kombetare in the Albanian capital.

Two goals from Magill and one apiece from Maxwell and Megan Bell helped them to a comfortable win.

Since coming into the role of boss Oxtoby has maintained she is building for the future, introducing new processes.

And although the final game of 2023 saw her team heavily defeated by Republic of Ireland at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park, she insists the team have made progress during her time in charge.

The 6-1 defeat against the group winners – Beattie grabbed Northern Ireland’s consolation goal – means Northern Ireland will now face a play-off in February to stay in League B for the second stage of the inaugural Nations League competition: a European Qualifiers phase next year.