- Simone Magill scored international goal after 11 seconds
- Northern Ireland striker made senior international debut at 15
- Magill and Co next face the Netherlands in France 2019 qualifying
Eleven seconds. That is all Northern Ireland’s Simone Magill needed to find the net against Georgia in a UEFA EURO 2017 qualifier. Straight after proceedings got under way, Magill sprinted from the centre circle to the opposition’s penalty area before converting team-mate Avilla Bergin’s delivery from close range. The perfect start.
She didn't know it at the time, but that strike would later see her presented with an award for the fastest-ever goal scored in a women’s international. In the end, however, the match proved to be a bittersweet occasion for the Everton Ladies striker.
"I didn’t think of how quickly the goal was scored at the time, I was just pleased that we had taken an early lead. It was later that night that my social media started going bonkers and it turned out that it had broken a world record for a women’s international match," Magill told FIFA.com. "While I scored the goal, it was Avilla who created it – I just had to touch it in.
"It was crazy to think that Northern Ireland were on the world stage for having broken a record. Towards the end of the game, though, I was concussed and ended up being out for five months. I had great staff around me to help me back and I’ve been fine since."
Magill is something of a Northern Ireland stalwart despite only being 23. The striker, who recently completed a Master’s Degree in Coach Education, made her senior international debut as a 15-year-old in 2010 and is already approaching a half-century of caps. Since making her senior debut as a teenager in high school, Magill has witnessed many changes and developments in the women’s game.
"The thing I’ve noticed the most is how much media attention the game gets now, and it’s still growing," said Magill. "When I compare it to when I was 15, nobody really knew any of the senior players in the team or who we were playing against. But now it’s different. I think social media is a massive platform for the women’s game in terms of getting that material out there. It’s helped it grow massively.
"Our last home qualifier [Republic of Ireland] was also on TV and that was the first time a women’s game has been on our local television. It was fantastic and it helps grow the game."
Away to Oranje
Northern Ireland face a daunting task next in FIFA Women’s World Cup™ qualifying as they travel to the Netherlands. The odds will naturally be stacked against Alfie Wylie’s side, who picked up a morale-boosting victory away to Slovakia last time out in the France 2019 preliminaries, as they prepare for the Euro 2017 winners. It is an occasion, however, that Magill and Co are relishing.
"In their opening qualifier, they had a crowd of over 20,000. Most of our girls have never played in front of crowds like that before, so for that alone, it will be a fantastic experience for our team.
"We know they're the best team in Europe but Republic of Ireland played against them and got a draw. If they can do it, so can we. We’ll approach it with the same preparation that we did against Slovakia. All we can do is give it our all."
NI’s remaining France 2019 qualifiers
Netherlands v Northern Ireland, 6 April 2018
Northern Ireland v Norway, 10 April 2018
Northern Ireland v Netherlands, 8 June 2018
Republic of Ireland v Northern Ireland, 31 August 2018
Northern Ireland v Slovakia, 4 September 2018
Whatever happens against Oranje, Northern Ireland will toast to a successful game with a pre-match espresso, something which has become a matchday ritual for the team in recent times.
"A lot of our team love coffee and when we played in Italy anytime we asked for one, we always got an espresso shot," Magill explained. "Before that game, we got one for everyone and toasted to a good performance.
"We played well in that game so it became a superstition and we now do it before every match, either before we get on the team coach or before the warm-up. I’m usually the one getting them ready for everyone!"
Whether getting goals or espressos for the Northern Ireland team, Magill will be no doubt be toasting to a shock victory against the Dutch before taking to the pitch in April.