Rebecca Holloway: ‘This is such a big moment in Northern Ireland’s history’

Rebecca Holloway: Northern Ireland defender reflects on side's qualification to Euro 2022

BURTON UPON TRENT, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 23: Jordan Nobbs of England runs with the ball under pressure from Rebecca Holloway of Northern Ireland during the Women's International Friendly match between England and Northern Ireland at St George's Park on February 23, 2021 in Burton upon Trent, England. (Photo by Lynne Cameron - The FA/The FA via Getty Images)

Northern Ireland women’s defender Rebecca Holloway says last week’s qualification for Euro 2022 will go down as one of the biggest moments in the country’s history.

Kenny Shiels’ side beat higher-ranked Ukraine in the play-offs to progress to next summer’s finals in England and reach a major tournament for the first time ever.

Left-back Holloway, who played in both matches, believes the team’s achievements will take time to sink after all of the hard work that has gone into over the two legs.

“It’s still that moment where we need to pinch ourselves because it doesn’t feel real,” reflects the Birmingham City defender.

“This is such a big moment in Northern Ireland’s history.

“We were really relaxed going into the second game and just ready to get out on the pitch and play. The outcome shows that all.”

The likes of Julie Nelson and record goal scorer Rachel Furness have been around the national team for over 15 years, with nine of the 14 who featured in the second leg playing domestically.

Holloway, who has three caps for Northern Ireland, was delighted to help the team qualify for the finals but felt more relief for the players who had been there from the start.

“I spoke about it with Simone [Magill] and Rachel Furness on the way home and they’ve been through it all.

“It felt such relief for the players who had been in the squad the whole time because I knew how much it meant to them, they have fought for so much over years. There are no individuals, we are just a team.

“Being a small country and not making it this far in the past, nobody expects little Northern Ireland to reach the Euros. It was such a surreal moment.”

For the 25-year-old, the friendly against England in February was her international debut due to injuries in the squad, and she has kicked on from there.

“It’s only just sinking in now that I’ve just played in two of the biggest games in Northern Ireland’s history and both of them for 90 minutes,” she said.

“Achieving this and getting to the Euros, for Kenny [Shiels] to trust me to do the job means a lot, I’m so grateful because I just wanted to prove myself.

“It’s my number one career highlight, one hundred percent.”