Northern Ireland women one game away from history

Laura Rafferty has spoken of the emotion she felt after returning to the Northern Ireland squad as the girls in green and white look to make history by qualifying for Euro 2022.

Tuesday, 13th April 2021, 1:00 pm

The 24-year-old has battled back to fitness following a serious knee injury sustained on the eve of boss Kenny Shiels’ first-ever squad announcement 19 months ago.

The timing meant Rafferty missed the entire qualification campaign but she made her return to the international scene last week as a second-half substitute in the 2-1 win over Ukraine in the first leg of their UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 play-off.

Rafferty admitted to being emotional when she replaced Sarah McFadden after 79 minutes in Ukraine.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Northern Ireland players training before tonight’s EURO 2022 play-off second leg. Pic by Pacemaker.

“My reaction definitely showed that,” she said. “Apart from my first (call-up), it was the most special I’ve had.

“From the position where I was, to being back with everyone now is the biggest blessing I could have dreamed of. It’s made everything worthwhile, that’s for sure.”

Northern Ireland can reach a first-ever major tournament if they avoid defeat against Ukraine in the second leg in Belfast tonight.

Rafferty insists the whole squad are focused on completing the job at Seaview.

“Everybody has a role to play, and we need to go and get this done for Northern Ireland,” said Rafferty, who is on loan at Bristol City from Brighton in the FA Women’s Super League. “We’re looking forward to it now. I think Ukraine will come at us but we’re preparing very well, and we have total belief in the coaching staff, and they have total belief in us players that we’ll implement their plans on the night.

“We have to go out and hold our heads high. This game means a lot to every single one of us and I know for the fans at home, as well as for family and friends, it means a lot.

“We’ll enjoy the occasion, but I’ve said it before that pressure makes diamonds so hopefully come the end of the game that will be the case.”

--

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

In order for us to continue to provide high quality and trusted local news on this free-to-read site, I am asking you to also please purchase a copy of our newspaper whenever you are able to do so.

Our journalists are highly trained and our content is independently regulated by IPSO to some of the most rigorous standards in the world.

But being your eyes and ears comes at a price. So we need your support more than ever to buy our newspapers during this crisis.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our local valued advertisers - and consequently the advertising that we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you helping us to provide you with news and information by buying a copy of our newspaper when you can safely.

You can also enjoy unlimited access to the best news from across Northern Ireland and the UK by subscribing to newsletter.co.uk

With a digital subscription, you can read more than five articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit https://www.newsletter.co.uk/subscriptions now to sign up.

Thank you