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Tuesday 05 Dec 2023
Northern Ireland focused ahead of Republic clash

Northern Ireland’s senior women’s team will be playing to win when they face Republic of Ireland Women in Belfast this evening.

That’s the promise from Northern Ireland boss Tanya Oxtoby as her side prepare to take on the winners of League B Group 1 in the inaugural UEFA Women’s Nations League.

Northern Ireland must win the game at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park (6pm kick-off) to guarantee a play-off spot for a place in League A in the next phase of the competition.

The Republic, who have topped the group and secured a League A slot with five wins out of five to date in B1, did Northern Ireland a favour when defeating Hungary 1-0 in Dublin on Friday.

I believe home advantage and the roar of the crowd can really push us on

It means Northern Ireland currently lie second in the group with seven points, following their 4-0 victory against Albania at the weekend, while the Hungarians are third on five points. They play Albania at home later today.

A victory would guarantee Oxtoby’s team a play-off spot for a place in League A, although a draw might suffice if a strong Hungarian side are unable to chalk up the goals against the Albanians.

It will be the Northern Ireland manager’s first game taking charge of the team at the National Stadium and she is looking forward to it. “I believe home advantage and the roar of the crowd can really push us on,” she says.

In her Manager’s View column in the matchday programme, Oxtoby further points out: “Republic of Ireland have been pretty much unstoppable in League B Group 1 up until now, and they have deservedly gained promotion to League A with their 100 per cent record. They have only conceded one goal in their five league matches to date.

“However, we have a job to do and I am confident we can get the result we need to ensure we get a crack at joining the Republic in League A in the European Qualifiers phase of this competition.”

Oxtoby adds: “I am thrilled that the team will get to play in front of a big crowd, just as they did at the Aviva in Dublin back in September. The fact that it is a derby clash certainly adds to the occasion.”

Although the Republic comfortably defeated Northern Ireland 3-0 at the Aviva in Dublin back in September to kick-start their winning run, they insist they will not be taking Northern Ireland lightly.

Republic captain Katie McCabe, the Arsenal Women midfielder, told media: "They've got a really good squad and a good manager has come in. She's got a lot of experience and you can see how they have progressed over the Nations League campaign."

The visitors have a panel packed with full-time professional players, many of whom play in England’s first or second tiers.

They include Everton Women keeper Courtney Brosnan and Everton midfielder Heather Payne, Birmingham City Women trio Jamie Finn, Lily Agg and Lucy Quinn (all midfielders), London City Lionesses midfielder Ruesha Littlejohn and Bristol City Women midfielder Megan Connolly.

Their squad also features players who operate at the highest level in the USA, including experienced midfielder Denise O’Sullivan (North Carolina Courage) and San Diego Wave forward Kyra Carusa.

At yesterday’s traditional eve of match press conference, Oxtoby pointed out: “We played them first time around and now we are playing them last, so we'll get a good idea of where we are at and the girls are really buzzing for it.”

She further said: "We want to finish on a positive and we want to continue the momentum from Friday's game because I thought the girls were outstanding.”

And the Northern Ireland boss added: “We will be playing to win.”

Tickets for the match are still available here.

There will also be live coverage of the game on BBC Two and the BBC iPlayer.