Euro 2022: Security, cameras and team suits - NI's trip to first major tournament 'feels real'

By Andy GrayBBC Sport NI at Euro 2022
Northern Ireland team bus
Northern Ireland were greeted by a Euro 2022 carpet and branded team bus after arriving in Southampton

After months upon months of build-up, the time has finally come for Northern Ireland.

With team suits, carpets and security - it's a new experience for team who are tasting tournament football for the first time.

Prior to January's seven-month switch to a full-time training camp before the Euros, players were juggling jobs and studies with playing football for club and country.

Now they are able to savour years of graft and hard work before they begin their history-making campaign.

"It's been amazing, obviously. We have never experienced anything like this before," said defender Abbie Magee.

"We were expecting it to be more professional and not like any other camp.

"On a normal Tuesday I would be sitting at home doing my university work so it has been a bit surreal.

"We had our suits and looked the part, the cameras were there as well which we aren't used to. We were getting pictures beside the plane and there was a carpet for us.

"We got to the hotel and there was security and that isn't like anything we have experienced before.

"We are taking it all in. We are here now and this is real."

Emily Wilson
Northern Ireland had their first training session at Stoneham on Tuesday

After a day to acclimatise, Northern Ireland had their first training session at their Southampton base on Tuesday as they prepare for Thursday's opener with Norway.

Striker Emily Wilson says it is important they enjoy their new environment.

"I think enjoying it is the most important thing," added the 20-year-old.

"We are here now and it's about the football, but it's about enjoying it as much as it is playing.

"We want to take it all in and enjoy it on the pitch and all the little things while we are here."

Wilson, one of 13 domestic players in the squad alongside Magee, said she had dreamed about stepping out at St Mary's for the opener.

"I think every footballer envisions themselves playing for their country in a big game like that," she added.

"It's been amazing to get the first training session done. Obviously it is real now, it has kicked in and we are here. We are focused on Thursday night and just can't wait to get started."

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