Northern Ireland has committed to providing their non-professional players with a seven-month full-time training camp ahead of the UEFA Women’s Euros.
A total of twenty-two Northern Ireland-based players will be training under the non-residential full-time programme, which is to be based at Newforge Sports Complex in Belfast.
Squad members, including Rachel Furness and Simone Magill, who play professionally in England and Scotland will remain with their clubs to train except if selected for games in international windows in February, April and June ahead of the tournament.
“We will do everything we can to prepare the squad for this fantastic occasion,” said Irish FA chief executive Patrick Nelson.
“It has been a huge undertaking to put such an operation together over the last few months. We are, of course, used to short term international training get-togethers, but never before have we run a seven-month camp with the financial, operational, technical, welfare and medical support such a project demands,” he pointed out.
Northern Ireland senior women’s team boss Kenny Shiels said: “2022 will be a pivotal year for my squad and backroom team. Having a permanent base at Newforge will help us collectively to maximise our potential in readiness for World Cup qualifiers and, of course, competing at the Euros in England.
“It will take at least six weeks until our programme begins to show effect. It’s certainly a great feeling to be part of it. Some girls will adjust quicker than others. Newforge is a fantastic setting for the girls to progress.”
Angela Platt, the Irish FA’s Director of Women’s Football, said: “Up to now many of our players have balanced studying or employment, or both, with training commitments to prepare to compete at the highest level in our sport.
“To the employers, education organisations and clubs we say a big thank you for their support in releasing players from their current commitments to be part of this exciting and innovative programme.”
The camp’s training schedule covers every day of the week except Saturdays; Saturday is the scheduled day off for players.
Shiels is expected to have a fluid training schedule, however each week there will be pitch sessions (both tactical and physical which will be tailored on group and one-on-one basis and will include match scenarios), individual and group strengthening and conditioning plus balanced rest and recovery sessions.
In addition there will be performance analysis sessions along with physiotherapy, massage and cryo spa treatments. And there will be psychology (both individual and team) sessions, too.
This all sounds amazing and the Northern Irish FA deserves to be commended for this move. I remember speaking to Kenny almost a year ago in the build-up to the England friendly and he was telling me about players that he was unable to select due to work commitments. Players in this position are clearly being held back by being unable to train full time and gaining access to first-class facilities will add a new depth to the squad. This could be the difference between qualifying from the group and going home.
The next competitive fixtures for Northern Ireland are two FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 qualifiers (European Qualifying Group D) in April – away to Austria on the 8th and home to England on the 12th.
Their first game at this summer’s Euros will be against Norway on 7 July followed by matches versus Austria (11 July) and tournament hosts England (15 July). All three of Northern Ireland’s group games at the Euros are being staged at St Mary’s Stadium in Southampton. Being Portsmouth based I am loving this and hope to be there for each of these fixtures.