Laura Rafferty has been recalled to the Northern Ireland squad for the upcoming Euro 2022 playoff fixtures against Ukraine.
Rafferty returns to Kenny Shiels side after a long-term injury. She is currently on loan to Bristol City from Brighton & Hove Albion.
The soon-to-be 25-year-old has won 27 caps for her country. The last of those came against the Republic of Ireland in 2018.
Northern Ireland will take on Ukraine in the first leg on the 9 April before hosting the second leg on Tuesday 13 at Seaview.
Emma McMaster of Glentoran Women who can play as a defender or as a midfielder also makes it into the squad like Rafferty she has also just returned from injury.
McMaster, who starred for Northern Ireland at the youth level, has fully recovered after having surgery last September. She will now have the chance to add to her six senior caps.
Kirsty McGuinness, Kerry Beattie and Danielle Maxwell have also been drafted back into the squad after missing out on February’s trip to face England at St George’s Park.
Rebecca Holloway of Birmingham City keeps her place in Shiels side after making her debut against England last time out.Embed from Getty Images
The squad, however, are without some key players. New Glentoran Women signing Lauren Wade is missing out with an ankle injury. Meanwhile, Rangers Women duo Megan Bell and Demi Vance are also out with long term injuries.
Abbie Magee, who put in a player of the match performance against England by marking Manchester City star Lauren Hemp so well, is also unavailable with a knee injury. Caitlin McGuinness is also unavailable.
Goalkeeper Maddy Harvey-Clifford, Ella Haughey and Casey Howe who travelled to St George’s Park also drop out of the squad this time around.
Fixtures at hand
Northern Ireland reached their first play-off for a major tournament when they pipped Wales to finish runners-up. They came in behind Norway in Qualifying Group C thanks to four wins, two draws and two defeats.
Shiels says his side “will give everything they have against the Ukrainians” to ensure they play in next summer’s tournament.Embed from Getty Images
He is also concerned at the “array of talent” not in the squad either through injury or being unavailable due to work commitments. This includes Lauren Wade, Demi Vance, Megan Bell, Caragh Milligan, Abbie Magee and Caitlin McGuinness.
However, Shiels insists the members of the panel at his disposal want to reach the Women’s Euros. He promised: “Myself and my backroom team will make sure they are ready and prepared to win games.”
He added: “The players are enthusiastic and they have the belief and the ability to succeed. They will be ready to give everything they have.”
Northern Ireland squad
Goalkeepers: Jackie Burns (Glentoran Women), Becky Flaherty (Sheffield United Women).
Defenders: Ashley Hutton and Kelsie Burrows (both Linfield Ladies), Toni-Leigh Finnegan (Cliftonville Ladies), Julie Nelson (Crusaders Strikers), Rebecca Holloway (Birmingham City Women), Laura Rafferty (Bristol City Women), Emma McMaster (Glentoran Women).
Midfielders: Nadene Caldwell, Samantha Kelly (both Glentoran Women), Marissa Callaghan (Cliftonville Ladies), Rachel Furness (Liverpool Ladies), Chloe McCarron (Birmingham City Women), Sarah McFadden (Durham Ladies), Ciara Watling (Charlton Athletic Women), Rebecca McKenna (Linfield Ladies), Louise McDaniel (Unattached).
Forwards: Kerry Beattie and Danielle Maxwell (both Glentoran Women), Simone Magill (Everton Women), Emily Wilson (Crusaders Strikers), Kirsty McGuinness (Sion Swifts Ladies).