Euro 2022: 'Let's make people happy' - NI boss Kenny Shiels' message to players

Shiels proud of 'outrageously good and hard working' Northern Ireland players

Northern Ireland women's boss Kenny Shiels urged his players to "make people happy" before their history-making win over the Faroe Islands.

Shiels' side came from a goal down to beat the Faroes 5-1 at Seaview and secure a Euro 2022 play-off place.

It capped a remarkable run of four consecutive qualifier wins that clinched second place in Group C and a first play-off to reach a major finals.

"I said before we went out 'let's go and make people happy'," Shiels said.

"Whether it was their family, friends, partners or whatever. I said 'let's try and do it for someone else just for this period, even though you will reap the rewards'.

"It's fantastic when you see them celebrating and you feel that maybe me and my staff have helped with that. That's why we are in football because we have a passion for the game and we want to make people happy."

Northern Ireland fell behind to a surprise early goal from the visitors, but recovered quickly to go into half-time 2-1 up thanks to goals from Rachel Furness and Kirsty McGuinness.

Northern Ireland players savour the win over the Faroe Islands
Northern Ireland players savour the win over the Faroe Islands

The hosts' dominance grew after the break and further goals from Chloe McCarron, substitute Caitlin McGuinness - younger sister of Kirsty - and a late deflected strike from Furness gave them victory and the chance to qualify for a major women's tournament for the first time.

Shiels looked back to two 6-0 defeats by Norway early in the campaign as being crucial to them beating Wales to that all-important play-off place.

"From the first whistle of the tournament we took on Norway toe-to-toe. We learnt so much from that even though we got beaten 6-0," he continued.

"Then in the third game we took them on again and there was more learning development in that. The girls felt it was brilliant that, even though they were getting beaten 6-0, the staff were praising them.

"They were giving it a go but they didn't realise the learning that they were getting from that. You look at the players they are playing against - they play for Wolfsburg, Barcelona and Chelsea - and we have gone toe-to-toe with them and learnt so much from it.

"Wales, on the other hand, played not to lose against Norway and got two 1-0 defeats. Wales have got fantastic players, all from the Super League, and the Northern Ireland girls play for Glentoran, Sion Swifts, Cliftonville, Linfield and Crusaders.

The McGuinness sisters, Kirsty and Caitlin, were playing together for NI for the first time
The McGuinness sisters, Kirsty and Caitlin, were playing together for NI for the first time

"They have beaten Wales to finish second and I think they should be so proud of that. We have that attitude, we have got to take risks and play with a flavour so that everyone can see this is a good product.

"We are not going to get the crowds coming to watch us play, when they are allowed, if we do not have a good product."

While praising his players for what they have achieved so far, Shiels reflected on the journey the Northern Ireland women's team has made during the last 15 years and also stressed the importance of developing young players for the future.

"Don't forget the women's game had to close down in Northern Ireland for a spell because of a lack of interest, and a lot of these girls were part of that," he added.

"Now, it is up to me to develop the young players and take them through. Nine or 10 of the Under-19s have been with us for our training programme and they will provide a great underbelly coming through, because the older girls just cannot play for ever and ever."

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