Northern Ireland's women going 'from strength to strength' - Vance

Megan Bell and Demi Vance
Megan Bell and Demi Vance, now team-mates at Rangers, face off in the 2018 Irish Cup final

Northern Ireland defender Demi Vance believes that manager Kenny Shiels will benefit from more players making the switch to full-time football.

Vance turned professional when she signed with Rangers after moving from NI Women's Premiership side Glentoran.

Shiels' side travel to Spain for the Pinatar Cup before taking on Bulgaria in Euro 2021 qualifying in April.

"From Kenny's point of view, the more players playing full-time, the better," said Vance.

"As the seasons go on we are getting more and more players doing so and we've a lot of young players coming through who have so much potential."

The Pinatar Cup sees NI play three games between 4-10 March against Iceland, Ukraine and Scotland.

The friendly tournament will act as a warm-up for NI's Euro 2021 qualifier against Belarus on 14 April.

Northern Ireland sit fourth in in Group C after four games and know a positive result against Bulgaria is crucial to their hopes of making the finals.

Megan Bell, who played against Vance while at Linfield, also joined Rangers in the off-season and adds to the professional players in Shiels' ranks.

However there is a wealth of local talent coming through in the Irish Premiership, including Glentoran's Danielle Maxwell and Linfield's Caitlin McGuinness, who are 17 years old.

The average age of the Northern Ireland squad for the Pinatar Cup is just 23 years old and includes eight teenagers.

Ashley Hutton
Ashley Hutton salvaged a late point for Northern Ireland against Wales in September's Euro 2021 qualifier

"I think the national team can only go from strength to strength," added Vance.

"I think you can see that since Kenny came in we have improved and his staff have been brilliant.

"Belarus is a massive game and we are all very excited for that, but the trip to Spain will be good because we will have three games.

"Ten days is a good length of camp for us to prepare for the Belarus game."

The future 'is exciting'

Vance's views on the growth in the Northern Ireland set-up is echoed by teenager Bell, who moved to the Glasgow outfit from Durham Ladies.

"I can feel myself getting better every day, both technically and tactically," said Bell on the switch to full-time football.

"As people are training more often, and the more better players you have, then the better the team becomes.

"These are really big steps and I know there will be more players who will come across to England or Scotland.

"That will make the team a lot better and it's pretty exciting to see."

Northern Ireland's 2020 Pinatar Cup fixtures
IcelandvNorthern IrelandWednesday, 4 March, 15:00 GMT
Northern IrelandvUkraineSaturday, 7 March, 19:00 GMT
ScotlandvNorthern IrelandTuesday 10 March, 20:30 GMT

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