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Belfast Live
Belfast Live
Darren Fullerton

Northern Ireland women's boss Kenny Shiels hails Ballyclare backing in Marbella

Northern Ireland women’s boss Kenny Shiels says the unexpected lilt of a Ballyclare accent helped inspire his team’s impressive draw with Switzerland at the Marbella Training Centre.

Sunday’s friendly in southern Spain was part of the national team’s preparations for April’s vital World Cup qualifiers with Austria and England.

And while the game was played virtually behind closed doors, a number of supporters managed to get in to see Simone Magill bag a brace in a deserved 2-2 share of the spoils.

The devoted group of fans included a number of aspiring young female players who got their photographs taken with the Northern Ireland squad after the game.

“There were people from Ballyclare supporting us,” revealed Shiels. “They actually live here, but it’s fantastic that they were here watching us.

“To see that gives us some hope and it’s great to see the extra support we have now that we maybe didn’t have before. It was also a really pleasing result against a top side.”

Goalscorer Magill said: “It was fantastic to see supporters here. For us as players, it means so much and we want to inspire the next generation.

“We don’t want to have all this hype and for it to die off. We want to inspire every young kid who watches us to think ‘that’s what I want to do, I want to play for Northern Ireland’.”

Magill opened the scoring with a brilliant strike before Switzerland, ranked 29 places higher in the world, hit back through Alisha Lehmann and Ramona Bachmann.

Magill levelled things in the 72nd minute when she stepped up to rifle home a penalty to secure a deserved share of the spoils.

“Switzerland are a top, top team in Europe and yet we’re probably disappointed that we didn’t come away with the win,” she said.

“It’s testament to our character that we were 2-1 down, but we fought back and got the equaliser. I think it shows how far we have come.”

Northern Ireland, who have an historic first ever appearance at a major tournament lying in wait at the Euro 2022 finals in England, beat the Faroes in Spain on Thursday.

They conclude their 10-day training camp with a fixture against Romania at the Marbella Training Centre on Wednesday.

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