Jackie Burns - Doing the impossible with Northern Ireland!

Jackie Burns - Doing the impossible with Northern Ireland!

Jackie Burns is Northern Ireland Women’s number 1 and goalkeeper for BK Hacken in the Swedish first division. 

Gloveglu caught up with Jackie in Sweden, where her league season continues whilst she prepares for Northern Ireland’s first ever major International competition with the European Championships in July 2022. 

Battling to become a title winner in Sweden and making history as a key part of her national side, where did it all start for Jackie? 

It was as a 7 or 8 year old playing as the only girl in Cookstown boys youth team in Northern Ireland. One of my close friends was going to a training session and I think my mum kind of asked if I could I tag along. I went along with him and seemed to enjoy it a bit. And then, you know, at the end you just play a little small sets of games, and you’re meant to switch positions and switch goalkeepers and just get a feel of all the positions. I’m in goal and I just started enjoying it. And they were like, Oh, do you want to switch? And I was like, No, I'm okay here. So I just stayed in the goal. 

Is it easier for girls to progress in football now?

I think it's definitely a smoother transition. Like we've even seen it over the past year. A lot of younger girls are wanting to play football. And that's put a lot of emphasis on to a lot more clubs to have a girls programme. And then that means there's a lot more involvement and it just makes the transition into the international setups a lot more easier because they're going from playing with girls, and they're growing with them and their development is with them. Like I still say that me playing with the boys was an important thing for me, because it toughened me up a little bit. Because when you're young boy, you do treat everyone the same. Like I was treated like one of the boys when I was younger. So I enjoyed that. And when I walked out with the other boys the opposition were like, Oh, they have a girl on their team. But once they saw thatI was a bit fearless and was pretty good, they were like, alright, we’ll have to take this game a bit more seriously, this isn't going to be an easy game. So that’s helped me a lot, especially going into big games now. 

Do you feel you’re at the start of a bit of a wave, and the game is changing rapidly around you?

I think so. Especially with the success that we've had with Northern Ireland, I think that's really helped the development of the woman's game back home because, before, we wouldn't really have had a lot of support with with girls football. But now since the woman's team is doing well and we're putting ourselves on the map I think that's just helping a whole lot of people and a whole lot of young girls to say, well, these women are from Northern Ireland and they've done it so  I can too.

Northern Ireland’s qualification for Women’s Euro 2022 is incredible, what was the journey like?

Few if anyone ever said that Northern Ireland would qualify for a major tournament. We all probably would have been like, it's not really going to happen. But I mean, we came into that qualifying campaign, and we've just got a new coach. We felt like we had nothing to lose, we wanted to try new things, we just want to see what happens. So we went into the first game against Norway and took a little bit of a battering, I think it was 6-0. But then we went went away and played Wales and drew that game.

Everyone expected Wales to qualify, but after we played that first Wales game, that's when our belief was like, maybe we could. Maybe we could challenge for 2nd in this group. 

After we drew away to Wales we had the away goal advantage over them. Faroe Islands away was the last game of the campaign. I remember thinking, if we win this, we’re going to the playoffs. 

And we gave ourselves a bit of a shaky start, we give away a goal very early on. We were like, okay, wake up. This is what we’ve got to do. We ended up winning and I just remember it was the best feeling ever knowing that we were going to go to the playoffs.

We were playing Ukraine who we actually played before in 2020 and I think they beat us 3 or 4-0. But we knew from there we had developed so much. We went to Ukraine and had a challenging game against them. Thank goodness we got the second goal to tie the game, because it just set us up for nicely coming home and just needing to win. 

And after we beat them I just remember, as soon as a final whistle went like it was disbelief, like complete disbelief at what had happened and that we were actually going to go to a major tournament. Going from losing 6-0 in the very first game, thinking this is going to be impossible, to go into the playoffs and win. 

How are we feeling? You've got Norway, Austria, England, in your group?

Challenging, it's gonna be challenging. But I think what we really want to get out of is that we're not there by mistake. Obviously we're gonna give each game our all. We were fortunate that we had England and Austria in the recent World Cup qualifiers, and Austria might be our main focus to try and get a result from. Both games in World Cup qualifying were really tough battles, and it’s unfortunate the last game they beat us. But we're going to be going into that game with a bit more fire fire in our bellies, because we want to prove that we can maybe beat the likes of Austria. Again, maybe with Norway, it’s an important game for us because it'll show how far we’ve come since we started. It’s a very good baseline to see how far we've come, and I think that's exciting for us too, because there's no better team than Norway to test yourself against.

You've potentially got another two Euros in your career, maybe another three after this. You maybe potentially got another two or three World Cups.  Can Northern Ireland build on this and be a regular in major competitions?

I think we kind of had that sight for us already going into this World Cup qualifying, and we're just unfortunate that we got beat to the post by Austria in the last game, but it’s just one of those things. But the belief after these Euros is that it's not a one time thing. We want to make it a regular thing. And I think going forward maybe qualifying for the World Cup could be another stepping stone and something to look forward to if if it was to happen. I don't think it's one of those things that sounds impossible anymore. It definitely feels closer. 

Jackie & Northern Ireland’s Euro 2022 Fixtures

Norway vs Northern Ireland - Thursday 7th July 8pm GMT

Austria vs Northern Ireland - Monday 11th July 5pm GMT

Northern Ireland vs England - Friday 15th July 8pm GMT


Want to see or listen to the full gloveglu interview with Jackie? Find "The Goalkeeping Podcast"

Apple podcasts - https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/jackie-burns-northern-ireland-1/id1348402331?i=1000567573879

Spotify - https://open.spotify.com/episode/4wQgolSEZLGWEStIqCGCwQ

Youtube - https://youtu.be/bUxySCy0vkQ

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