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UTV charts the rise and rise of Northern Ireland Women’s Football Team in a special programme

UTV's Ruth Gorman chatting to NI Women's Team captain Marissa Callaghan.

‘Young girls now have aspirations to go and play professional football, which wasn't the case five or ten years ago. We need to build on that and keep investing in the women's game.’ – Julie Nelson (Northern Ireland player)

 

The history and success of the Northern Ireland women’s football team is the focus of a one-off special programme coming to UTV on Thursday night.

 

Presented by UTV Sports Reporter Ruth Gorman, the aptly-named ‘World at their Feet’ looks back at the year that put the game on the map. It is both a celebration of the year that's been, and also a look ahead to how and when Northern Ireland can repeat that success.



The programme charts the incredible rise of women's football in Northern Ireland and looks forward to what the legacy of qualifying for the Euros in 2022 might be. From increased visibility, breaking into the mainstream media and inspiring the next generation of players, this year was the year the women's game changed forever.


UTV's Ruth Gorman with cameraman Tommy Hassan talking to Joely Andrews and Kerry Beattie, both Glentoran + NI international from the Northern Ireland women's football team for the World at their Feet programme.

 

Ruth speaks to key figures in football in Northern Ireland.

 

Captain Marissa Callaghan confesses to having to overcome nerves to become a leader in the dressing room. When asked to talk to a group of aspiring young female footballers at the start of her career, she says:


“They wanted a player to go up and chat to the girls about us. So I went and there must have been probably 50 people in the room and I went to get up and speak and completely just couldn't, couldn't speak, mumbled a few words, took the biggest ‘redner’ and just sat down and just wanted the ground to swallow me up.”



 

Manager Kenny Shiels talks too of the early days and aspiring to ‘remove the fear of failure.’  


He describes the team he first came to. He says:


“There was players that they could do one in every three sessions. There was players who one had bad knees. One didn't like to head the ball, couldn't head the ball, actually. And one can only last 60 minutes. You know, this is the stuff that I was getting, and I was thinking, oh, god, what have I let myself in for? But it was a challenge.”


 

He also talks about the future and capitalising on the success saying:


“I think we've put ourselves up on a pedestal now where we have to sustain and move on or we have to make sure we're working to improve all the time, but we can do it again.”

 


And Steve Davis, Northern Ireland Men’s captain talks about keeping the momentum going and building on the success of the women’s game.  He tells Ruth:


“Younger girls want to get involved in the game as well. So it's been all positive and we just keep pushing in that direction. I think it's been getting better in all sports across the board in terms of opportunities that are there for kids. But it's important we keep trying to push that there and give everybody the same opportunities."


 

The IFA too has an important role to play, and Ruth finds out about their strategy for the women’s game. They have committed to significant investment and priority to the women's game, with plans for an academy, as well as working to rebuild pathways for young girls to play.


On the back of the Euros, they say their hope is to raise the profile of the game across schools and clubs, and highlight role models in the local game.

 


UTV Programme Producer Simon McIntyre came up with the idea for the programme. He commented:


“Enthusiasm for the women’s game is at an all-time high. It’s been an incredible journey for this squad – to go from playing in front of a few dozen people to selling out Windsor Park is quite the achievement.


"We were delighted to get behind the scenes to see the work that has gone in to make this happen and to see how Northern Ireland women are aiming to continue that success. Thanks to everyone who took time out of their busy schedules to talk to us.”


 

World At Their Feet airs on UTV on Thursday 8th December at 9.35pm, and you can catch up afterwards on www.itv.com/utvprogrammes.

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