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Rebecca Holloway: USA move 'no-brainer' for Northern Ireland defender

Rebecca Holloway scored three goals across November's two fixtures with North Macedonia
Rebecca Holloway scored three goals across November’s two fixtures with North Macedonia
2023 Women’s World Cup qualifier: Austria v Northern Ireland
Date: Friday, 8 April Kick-off: 19:30 BST Venue: Stadion Wiener Neustadt, Austria
Coverage: Live stream on BBC Sport website and BBC iPlayer

Northern Ireland defender Rebecca Holloway says her move from Women’s Super League side Birmingham City to Racing Louisville is a dream come true.

Holloway signed for the Kentucky NWSL side on a two-year deal on Thursday.

The 26-year-old previously spent four years in the USA at university.

“When this came about it was a no-brainer,” said Holloway, who is in Kenny Shiels’ squad for the crucial upcoming World Cup qualifiers with Austria and England.

“I lived out in America for four years with university, so when I finished playing I entered the draft after I graduated.”

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After graduating from Cumberland University and spending a season with Nashville Rhythm, Holloway said she “jumped at the opportunity” to play in the WSL with Birmingham but admitted she “always wanted to play” in the NWSL.

She adds the more athletic game in the USA suits her style, in which Northern Ireland and Birmingham supporters have become accustomed to see her charging up and down the wing from left-back.

“I always wanted to do it since my four years in America, so that is where the interest began,” she added.

“The biggest difference is athleticism. It’s a very transitional game and there is a lot more running.

“Technically, it’s probably more direct play, where in England they like to get the ball down and play a lot more.”

‘We’re all up for it’

Holloway is in the Northern Ireland squad to face Austria and England, which could define Northern Ireland’s 2023 World Cup hopes.

Austria and Northern Ireland are level on points in second place, and Friday’s game at Stadion Wiener Neustadt comes after a dramatic 2-2 draw in Belfast in October.

Shiels’ side then play England on Tuesday, however the head-to-head nature of rankings means NI’s World Cup fate could ultimately be decided in Austria with the winners set to move into a favourable position.

“There is a good feeling in the group. Everyone is up for it and looking forward to it,” said Holloway.

“We don’t want to put that pressure on ourselves. Once you start doing that then nerves can kick in.”

As one of the few players who have experience in the WSL, Holloway is hoping her top-flight experience can help settle any nerves before two big matches for Northern Ireland.

Holloway made her senior NI debut in February 2021 and has become a key member of Kenny Shiels' squad
Holloway made her senior NI debut in February 2021 and has become a key member of Kenny Shiels’ squad

The majority of NI’s squad is made up of domestic-based players, who are in the middle of a seven-month full-time training camp before Euro 2022 this summer.

“I’m hoping I can bring a bit of leadership into the game by helping the more inexperienced ones. With the girls going into the full-time programme they are getting exposure of that environment.

“You can already see a difference in that sense. The likes of myself, Rachel Furness, Simone [Magill] – we all play in England and can bring that experience into the group.”

She added competition for places, with Holloway also playing in central defence and midfield for her country, is a positive to drive other players on.

“I think it’s good. It’s healthy to have competition otherwise you become complacent,” she said.

“It’s something I thrive on and I play better with that, so it’s good to have that within a team.”

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