Northern Ireland internationals and their families become famous overnight after Euro 2022 heroism
Bellaghy is in turmoil and Cookstown has gone mad since the Northern Ireland women’s team qualified for the Euro 2022 football final.
In addition to the players becoming household names, family members are suddenly local celebrities on the back of the play-off victory over Ukraine which secured a berth at next summer’s tournament in England.
Seamus Heaney’s name will forever be associated with his hometown of Bellaghy, but attention is now shifting to Irish midfielder Sarah McFadden and her sister Helen, even though she has never played international football.
“My mother was tortured with people calling her. In the local town people are blowing her horns,” said Sarah, who was on a plane back to Newcastle upon Tyne the morning after the match , then train with it. club Durham 48 hours after the victory over Ukraine.
“My sister, she’s scared to go to the store now because people still think she’s me.
“All of my sisters were inundated with messages of support. It’s just amazing that part.
Flying much further than Sarah was the keeper Jackie Burns.
The Cookstown woman had plenty of time to reflect on the team’s incredible accomplishments as she returned to finish her college term in America.
“I wish I could have stayed home longer to let him in with my family and friends, but seeing the support pouring in with texting has been great,” she said.
“I got messages from parents saying they watched the game – probably the first time they watched a full soccer game in their life – which shows the level of support I had, which It’s incredible.
“Even the support from friends, whether they’re at home or in America, has been amazing. It is difficult to thank them all individually.
“It finally hit me when I watched the final minutes of the game before takeoff and the post-game interviews with Nadene Caldwell, Marissa Callaghan and Kenny Shiels.
“To actually say that we are going to the Euros is crazy.”
Widespread attention is something girls know they will have to get used to over the next year or so.
Sarah, who has played for Northern Ireland for 17 years, didn’t expect to get so much attention, but spent most of the next morning answering phone calls.
“I was absolutely tortured,” she said with a smile.
“I was asked to go to Radio Newcastle, and when the IFA Communications Department realized I was awake, I got calls from Radio Ulster, Radio Foyle, Five Live and then I went. got stuck on Sky Sports too. I was tortured and got very little sleep, although I was very sensitive. “
One person happy to see her home was her husband Damian, who had literally been left holding the baby – her three-year-old daughter Harper – while mum was making the story.
“He said he was knocked out because he had Harper for 10 days without a break and the schools are closed so she hasn’t even been to nursery and he tried to work and hunt her during my time. absence, “she added.
Kenny’s Daughters Maturing, Ivan Little, page 20