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New generation of women taking NI football by storm

More girls are taking up playing football than ever before. Credit: UTV

A new generation of female footballers are taking the game by storm, amid something of a revolution for the sport in Northern Ireland.

After the recent success of the men’s national side, the women say they will be next.

“The men doing really well in the Euros has obviously again raised awareness of the Northern Ireland squads and what football’s all about in this country,” Northern Ireland captain Marissa O’Callaghan said.

“Hopefully within the next 10 years, we can do what the men did and qualify for a major tournament.”

Northern Ireland captain Marissa O’Callaghan. Credit: UTV

The recent Super Schools Festival, part of the Electric Ireland Game Changers campaign, saw over 1,400 girls taking part in finals day in Mallusk under the watchful eye of NI Ladies boss Alfie Wylie.

And he hailed the talent on display.

“I think it’s outstanding – how they’re striking the ball, they’re passing it, their mobility, their agility, athleticism,” he said.

“But most of all, they’re playing with a smile on their face and really enjoying it.”

NI Ladies boss Alfie Wylie at the Super Schools Festival in Mallusk. Credit: UTV

The Game Changers campaign has seen more girls take up the sport in the last few years than ever before and the Super Schools Festival has seen a 33% increase in participation since last year.

And who knows where it might lead some of the girls taking part.

Northern Ireland defender Julie Nelson. Credit: UTV

Northern Ireland defender Julie Nelson said football had given her opportunities she might not otherwise have had.

“I’ve been fortunate to play club football in a few different countries – I got to play in Iceland, England and Scotland, as well as obviously here in Northern Ireland,” she said.

“I got a scholarship as well in America whenever I was about 19, so it’s helped me see a lot of the world which I probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise, so it’s been fantastic.”