NI Women's Team
NI Women's Team

From the Sidelines to the World Stage!

Meet the NI Women’s Football Team!

A fascinating history 

The year is 1917.

Young men are being called upon to fight for their country, and women are stepping in to work in their factory jobs.

To boost their morale, health and wellbeing while working in these dark and dirty factories, women are being encouraged to engage in sport.

So, they take to the football field and form teams within their factories. And they get pretty darn good – playing charity games to raise money for injured servicemen and drawing in massive crowds.

On Boxing Day 1917, 20,000 fans pack into Grosvenor Park to watch a women’s match between the North of Ireland Ladies and the Tyneside Ladies.


Taken from Belfast Newsletter, 25 December, 1917.
Taken from Belfast Newsletter, 25 December, 1917.

But just four years later, the highly influential English FA take it upon themselves to ban women’s football.

Want to guess why?

Because the men were envious of the large crowds that women’s matches were attracting, and they had no control over the money being made in the women’s game.

Typical men.

(Joking. Sort of).

Where we are now

Fast-forward 100 years, and women’s football is one of the fastest growing sports in the world.

50 million people tuned in for the 2022 Women’s Euro final, and the first ever £1m transfer in the women’s game is on the cards for the next 12-18 months.

We love to see it.

The Northern Ireland side defied all odds when they defeated Ukraine to qualify for the UEFA Women’s Euros in 2022 for the first time in history. They were ranked 47th in the world at the time, and the fact that most of the squad were balancing work and studies with training, makes their journey all the more remarkable.

When their Euro 2022 dream was over, the party was only getting started.
The team ran straight to the corner at St Mary’s, to applaud the Green and White Army fans, who had not stopped singing from the first minute. Sweet Caroline and Freed From Desire (two NI classics – if you know you know) became songs of unison between fans and players. Even the England team stopped to applaud at the spectacle they were witnessing.

NI Women’s Football Team
NI Women’s Football Team

Two years on, and the girls in green are back participating in the EURO 2025 qualifiers. Despite taking an early lead, Northern Ireland suffered a narrow defeat to Portugal. But manager Tanya Oxtoby’s remained positive, saying they are ‘headed in the right direction.’

The ladies now look to their July double-header away to Malta and at home to Bosnia-Herzegovina to get back to winning ways. Until then, let’s meet the team… (Full squad not pictured.)  

Northern Ireland Senior Women’s Team 2024

Northern Ireland Senior Women’s Team 2024
Northern Ireland Senior Women’s Team 2024

Jackie Burns
Northern Ireland’s number one keeper was already an international in netball and hockey before making her senior football debut at aged 16. And if that wasn’t impressive enough, she’s also a whizz with a Rubik’s cube.

Laura Rafferty
27-year-old Laura started out as a striker but has since found her place as a centre-back. She called it a ‘massive honour' to wear the captaincy armband for the first time at Windsor Park earlier this year.

Rebecca Holloway
Bristol-born Rebecca’s journey to the women’s 1XI began with a visit to see her wee Northern Irish granny. Former NI boss Alfie Wylie spotted her talent a mile off, invited her to a training session, and the rest is history.

Demi Vance
Winner of ‘Premiership Player of the Year Award’ in 2019, Demi is rock-solid in defence, and is one of the most decorated players in the squad. She reckons Norway are the best team she’s faced on the international stage.

Northern Ireland Senior Women’s Team 2024
Northern Ireland Senior Women’s Team 2024

Marissa Callaghan
The 38-year-old Cliftonville midfielder is very much Northern Ireland’s skipper, captaining the side for eight years and leading them to their first ever Euro qualification in 2022. A Northern Irish footballing legend.

Chloe McCarron
Chloe takes inspiration from Steven Gerrard and Xabi Alonso on the pitch. Off the pitch, she’s a keen member of ‘the coffee club’ – the girl gang who gather in hotel receptions for a pre-game shot of espresso. 

Joely Andrews
Balancing her football career with studying for a psychology degree and starting her coaching journey – Joely is a busy woman. She was once a young fan watching her now international teammates.

Nadene Caldwell
Nadene worked in Belfast City Hospital for years, before taking some time off to focus on football full-time. An exceptional sportswoman, Nadene has also represented Northern Ireland at international futsal.

Northern Ireland Senior Women’s Team 2024
Northern Ireland Senior Women’s Team 2024

Simone Magill
Simone holds two impressive records. She was the first ever female Northern Irish player to sign a professional contract. She is also the fastest international goal scorer in history – finding the net after just 11 seconds!

Casey Howe
21-year-old Casey has already overcome more than most people her age. Since the recent passing of her football-mad uncle, Casey said football has been ‘therapy,’ and putting on the green jersey means more now than ever.

Lauren Wade
As a track runner at school, Lauren brings supersonic speed and experience to the side. Away from football, Lauren is a funeral director at the family business and a boss on the pool table. Talk about versatility.

Caragh Hamilton
Caragh made history in 2012 by becoming the youngest ever player to make a senior NI appearance, at just 15 years old. When a long-term injury took her out of the game, she went on to become one of Ireland’s top CrossFit athletes. (As you do, right?)

The Future is Female

What a line-up. It’s a pivotal time for women’s football in Northern Ireland. We can see it in TV viewings, social media consumption, and bums on seats.

Striker Simone Magill sums it up well...

Nobody used to come and watch us, nobody cared, and now we have fans travelling across in their thousands. It’s amazing to see how things have changed. We need to go heavy now and make sure this is going to have a lasting legacy.

Striker Simone Magill


So far, it looks like it’s working pretty well. Team Northern Ireland are playing a key role in turning inspiration into participation, with 10,000 women and girls across the country now playing football every week. And the Irish Football Association’s ‘Growing the Game – Maximising Impact’ strategy confirms their plans to heavily invest in women’s football, growing the game from the grassroots up.

Incredible stuff. If you have any stories of playing football when living Northern Ireland, we’d love to hear them. And make sure you follow the Northern Ireland Women’s journey from wherever you are in the world… the Green and White Army knows no geographical bounds.

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