Historic night for NI women's football as they secure place in Euro finals

Northern Ireland Women made history at Seaview. Credit: Pacemaker

Northern Ireland Women have made history after a 2-0 win against Ukraine at Seaview that sends them to the finals of a major tournament for the first time.

Captain Marissa Callaghan and substitute Nadene Caldwell both scored to seal their side's place - Callaghan in the 55th minute and Caldwell with an injury time strike.

Manager Kenny Shiels and his players will now take their place among Europe's top 16 teams when they meet at Euro 2022 in England next year.

The Northern Ireland side, who won 2-1 in Kovalivka last Friday, started brightly and threatened from a series of early set-pieces which repeatedly put Ukraine goalkeeper Kateryna Samson under pressure.

However, as Ukraine's wide midfielders Olha Boychenko and Olha Ovdiychuk started to make an impression, they were served with a reminder that their job was far from done.

Everton striker Simone Magill, who scored Northern Ireland's winner in the first leg, tested Samson from a tight angle 12 minutes before the break, but keeper Jackie Burns was relieved to see Daryna Apanaschenko drag her shot wide in first-half added time.

WATCH: Ruth Gorman speaks to Northern Ireland Women's Manager Kenny Shiels

In an untidy start to the second half, the home side dominated without creating genuine chances and when they finally did take the lead on the night, it was a result of persistence rather than quality.

Callaghan climbed to help on Julie Nelson's deep free-kick and, as defender Darya Kravets hesitated, she chased down the loose ball and stabbed it past Samson.

The visitors then unravelled as time ran out and midfielder Natiya Pantsulaya was sent off for a cynical foul on Sarah McFadden, before Caldwell made sure of the result in the sixth minute of added time.

The team have been hailed for their achievements, for inspiring girls and young women, and for providing such much-needed positivity.

First and deputy First Ministers Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill were among those who paid tribute.

“Fantastic for Northern Ireland, another crack in the glass ceiling,” Mrs Foster tweeted.

“So proud of all this team has achieved. Just what the country needs at the moment. Thank you, history makers.”

  • WATCH: Ruth Gorman speaks to Julie Nelson from the Northern Ireland Women's squad:

Ms O’Neill also referred to “history makers” using that and the word “inspirational” as hashtags as she tweeted: “A fantastic result for women in sport tonight.

“Congratulations to Marissa Callaghan and the rest of the squad.”

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has also hailed the win as “another pivotal moment in the development of women’s sport”.

Speaking after a meeting with manager Kenny Sheils and player Simone Magill, she said the team’s “commitment, bravery and will-to-win” had been evident throughout their campaign.

“Their achievement is made all the more remarkable by the fact that the team is made up of players who for the most part play for local clubs, and the personal commitment and sacrifices that they have made to achieve such success cannot be underestimated,” Ms Hargey added.

“Qualification for one of the top women’s soccer tournaments in the world will see them compete against the best sides and will undoubtedly inspire many young girls to play football.”