Northern Ireland booked their place at Women’s Euro 2022 on Tuesday night by securing a 2-0 win over Ukraine.
Going into the game, Kenny Shiels’ side only required a draw on the night after they won 2-1 in the first leg thanks to goals from Rachel Furness and Simone Magill.
They nearly took the lead inside six minutes when goalkeeper Kateryna Samson flapped at a corner, but Laura Rafferty narrowly poked wide. Magill then forced Samson into a fairly routine save just before the half hour mark. Ukraine struggled to carve out many chances with the scores level at 0-0 going into the break.
Early in the second half, Northern Ireland would find the breakthrough with Cliftonville’s Marissa Callaghan showing tenacity and composure to finish from a tight angle. Ukraine again offered little in response, with Chloe McCarron nearly setting Magill up for a second goal before full time.
In the closing minutes of stoppage time, Nadene Caldwell added some gloss to the scoreline, rounding the goalkeeper to make it 2-0 on the night. Before the game, Shiels claimed that his team of largely amateurs reaching Euro 2022 would be one of the sport’s all-time great underdog stories.
He was similarly emotional after the victory, saying: “I look at my staff, grown men, over there crying. I am nearly in bits myself. It is down to the girls at the end of the day. When I came in in 2019 the girls were traumatic, in bits, in pieces, and I was a new face.
“But they were self-driven and took it on. You have to take it in context, you look at Rory McIlroy and Steven Davis for what they have done for Northern Ireland. This here, far and away, is the best ever sporting achievement for Northern Ireland. For the UK, actually.”