Euro 2028 would bring people together, says NI women’s team manager Kenny Shiels

Football has brought the people of Northern Ireland together when nothing else could – and hosting Euro 2028 matches here would be ‘a great recognition’ of what the sport has achieved here, the manager says Kenny Shiels.

Hiels currently manages the Northern Ireland women’s team, which qualified for its first major tournament with this year’s Women’s Euro. He is excited about the possibility of the men’s event coming here in six years. “It would be really good for everyone involved because Northern Ireland was saved by the people of sport,” he said.

“Football saved this country. It brought communities together when no other organization could.

“As a manager, I’ve had players from all walks of life playing for the same teams. I think it would be a great recognition of what they’ve all done in the sport.

The Magherafelt native also believes football fans across Europe will be ‘amazed’ by the friendliness of the NI people, adding: ‘If this were to happen, the nature and hospitality of the Northern Irish people will leave a mark on these people for life.

“We excel in how we respect people and impress them.”

Although Windsor Park’s capacity of 18,500 is currently well below the 30,000 needed to host Euro finals matches, Shiels hopes the home ground will still see plenty of action. He encouraged the idea that Casement Park could host larger games. Due to redevelopment, the West Belfast GAA ground is expected to hold 34,578 seats when completed, making it the only NI stadium to meet UEFA standards.

Planning permission for the Casement redevelopment is currently subject to judicial review, which has been taken by the Mooreland and Owenvarragh Residents Association, and is due to be heard next month.

However, Donal O’Hara, the representative of a distinct resident group that supports the renovation, has hosted capacity events at the stadium “for generations”.

He said: “Having big-name global sports stars at the heart of our local community is exciting.

“The GAA has a proven track record in promoting the national interest of hosting other sports.

“The social and economic impact of such an event would be extremely significant.”

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