NI v Czech Republic

Kate Hoey MP at Euro 2016

Shirley Graham

into a bar on your own and someone will always take you under their wing.” And what about those sing-songs? Ulster Boys Making All The Noise may have the rhyme but what about the women? Fear not, Shirley has a solution: “I have video footage of me singing Ulster Girls Making All The Noise with a few strange looks from other fans.” I like it! Actress and local playwright Marie Jones, who used the infamous 1994 Northern Ireland v Republic of Ireland match as the backdrop for her play A Night In November, is one of the team’s big- name female fans. And she equates the emotions she experiences at a match with those of her chosen profession. “To me football has all the ingredients of live theatre: humour; drama; tension and a great communal experience,” she explained. “And then there’s that feeling of being loyal to the place you come from. “Plus when you have three sons it’s good to share their passion. They are proud of me for knowing the offside rule.” Another well-known woman who is a strong advocate of Our Wee Country is local-born Labour MP Kate Hoey. When she’s not at her London

constituency, Kate loves nothing more than shouting from the stand with her fellow GAWA members. “I've been watching Northern Ireland since my father first took me to the re-run of the 1958 World Cup qualifier against Italy. The first one was cancelled when the referee was fog-bound in London”, reminisced Kate. “I took my folding stool and stood right at the back against the wall under the directors’ box. I was hooked.” One of Kate’s most cherished memories was seeing Pat Jennings’ final game against Brazil at Mexico ‘86. However, it’s back on home turf where her heart lies: “I loved the atmosphere at the old Windsor Park but I’m pleased that we’re on the same site and still able to silence opposition supporters with our singing.” Kate is also delighted to see more women rising up through the ranks of players and fans, adding: “It’s great to see more and more women and girls playing football and coming to matches, too.” It seems pride, atmosphere and camaraderie create the perfect female-friendly conditions to keep the GAWA ladies coming back for more. Ulster Girls Making All The Noise? You better believe it! Words: Heidi McAlpin


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