Demi Vance: Nothing compares to playing for Northern Ireland at Windsor Park … but brings Wembley
Done buddy! To borrow a line from modern culture, Demi Vance might rightly sign her social media posts with this particular popular hashtag.
The Rangers Women star has ticked boxes over the past six weeks towards her ultimate return from the cruciate ligament injury she suffered against Belarus last November – first return, first start, international recall, scoring a goal, donning the Northern Ireland shirt again.
Starting Tuesday night’s Women’s World Cup qualifying victory over Latvia at Windsor Park was the last leg of her tough journey and after playing a key role in the 4-0 win – especially with a mean cross as Marissa Callaghan deflected into the net for the fourth goal. – the always smiling Demi beamed.
“It was a special night for me to start my first international after the injury,” said Demi.
“Getting back into the team was my goal throughout my work back after the operation.
“Playing the full game against Latvia and playing my part in the half hour I had against Luxembourg made me a special day of 10.”
Caragh Hamilton – who goes by her maiden name Milligan when she played for Northern Ireland – has also made a comeback after cross-muscle surgery a few weeks before Demi.
As they drew closer to their comeback just a few weeks ago, a huge carrot hung in front of them when the England FA announced Wembley would host next month’s qualifying game against Kenny Shiels’ side.
Although England won the February friendly between the countries 6-0 at St George’s Park, the girls from Northern Ireland promise it will be different this time around, with confidence in the team at a level record after qualifying for Women’s Euro 2022 and securing their eight-game winning streak.
“We won’t be afraid of England,” said Demi.
“We have to say that we have confidence. We’ve never had an eight-game winning streak before and to have Kenny and the staff behind us, we’re just going to build with every camp and every training session that we have so we’re going to go there with confidence.
“We faced England in February – I was not part of the squad for this game – but we’ll take everything we’ve learned and start over.”
While Wembley will be a treat for everyone involved, Tuesday’s occasion at Windsor Park is one that will be long remembered.
Louise McDaniel’s opening goal was the first a woman from Northern Ireland scored in an international match at the stadium after drawing in previous losses to France and Belgium – which also made victory against Latvia the team’s first success at Windsor.
Now they want more action on stage and another date at Windsor Park is due soon – and the gap will be much shorter than the previous nine-year gap.
“We really want to come back to Windsor Park,” said Demi.
“We would like to have 5,000 other players in front.
“It was special with the noise and I think you still want to play in your home stadium – it was a great feeling.
“It’s hard to describe the feeling. I played games against France and Belgium all those years ago before the stadium was remodeled, I played the Irish Cup finals in the new stadium, but I don’t think what let it be compared to putting on the green jersey and going out to your national stadium with your friends who are your teammates and the staff who support you all the way.
“We were full of confidence and I think it showed in the performance.
“The crowd was great. They are our 12th player. It’s so good to find them.
“Throughout the end of the Euros campaign last season, they missed seeing us qualify and I hope we got to put on a show and welcome them back.”