Sarah Robson - Durham Women v London City Lionesses, FA WomenÂ’'s Championship football match, New Ferens Park Stadium, Durham, UK - 19 Jan 2020 Photo: Richard Lee for The FA

Durham experiences have reduced play-off fear for Northern Ireland international McFadden

Northern Ireland international Sarah McFadden says that her experiences in the FA Women’s Championship with Durham this season have helped her prepare for tomorrow night’s UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 play-off first leg tie against Ukraine.

Kenny Shiels’ side go into their historic play-off preparing to take on a Ukraine side who are currently ranked 25 places higher than them in the FIFA Women’s World Rankings. Northern Ireland are being labelled huge underdogs for what is arguably the biggest two games in their history as they look to qualify for their first major tournament finals.

For defensive midfielder McFadden, the Ukraine fixture is the latest of a number of huge games in her season. The player has been part of a Durham side who have been challenging a full-time Leicester City outfit for promotion to the Barclays FA Women’s Super League up until recently. The pressure has been constantly on The Wildcats to match their promotion rivals throughout the season and McFadden says that her club experiences stand her in good stead for tomorrow night’s UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 play-off in Kovalivka.

“It has been a real benefit that both things have come at the same time,” McFadden told FAWSL Full-Time when speaking about big game intensity at both club and international levels. “With Durham, we have had a lot of pressure every single game and it has been very similar to the Northern Ireland ‘win at all costs’ mentality.

“I think now when we come to this point, there’s not as much fear because I’ve had this situation all season long so I think that only helps me personally and hopefully, I can help the other girls around me to excel and do the best that we can do.”

McFadden is a member of a Durham side who are known for their physicality and mental toughness and the player believes that the Northern Irish side are built in a similar mould.

She added “I feel like that is the mentality at Northern Ireland as well. It’s ‘win at all costs’ and we have a desire and enthusiasm to win every ball.

“I feel like it is very similar to Durham in that we’ve maybe not had that much success or visibility over the years but we always want to prove the doubters wrong. I think we have very similar mentalities at Durham and at Northern Ireland that we will always be the most hard-working team on the pitch no matter what happens and I just hope that will carry us through tomorrow night.

The enormity of the tie can be demonstrated by the media attention which the Northern Irish team have attracted. Both legs will be available for fans to watch through the BBC and McFadden is hoping that the nation get behind the team.

“That was one of the main things that we wanted for these games, the exposure,” McFadden said. “Hopefully, we can inspire the next generation that are coming through and without the footage being on the BBC and online, we might have missed a trick.

“This is one of the biggest games, we might not get another game like this for another 10 years so we just want to make sure that as many people as possible see it no matter what the result is. Hopefully, it will have a positive impact on anyone who is coming through after us.

“It is a massive step for women’s football in Northern Ireland that we can get both of these games broadcast live.”

Northern Ireland’s UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 play-off first leg tie against Ukraine kicks-off at 5pm on Friday evening and will be available for fans to watch live on the BBC Red Button.

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