‘Rachel Furness says I can’t have coffee after 3pm’: Demi Vance on big hit on and off the pitch

International camps can be anything.

un, exciting and full of fun, especially when things go well

Sometimes, though, with long journeys, hours to kill between the end of one workout session and the next morning and little stimulation while you’re stuck in a hotel that can quickly get heavy, tedious and monotonous.

Players have often told stories of how bored they were during their down time during major tournaments.

That won’t be the case for Northern Ireland as they advance to the Women’s European Championship 2022 final. Not when Demi Vance is around.

As one of the great characters on the squad, the bubbly Vance has a key role to play off the pitch as much as off the pitch to keep her teammates entertained – sometimes she needs to be ruled.

“The girls are never bored when I’m in camp,” said Vance.

“Marissa (Callaghan, Captain) sometimes gives me a rest when they need some rest and Rachel Furness tells me I can’t have coffee after three.

“We’re used to being together all the time so it’s nothing new and we’re very lucky to have a team where everyone gets along and we have a lot of people to spend our time with.

“It’s our first major tournament, so we’ll make sure we enjoy every minute of it.”

It hasn’t been all fun and games for Vance in the past 18 months.

Just as qualifying for the finals came within reach, her world collapsed around her.

In the penultimate group stage match against Belarus, a harmless piece for the ball caused Vance to land awkwardly, resulting in a ruptured cruciate ligament and sidelined the 31-year-old for the final against the Faroe Islands.

After undergoing surgery on Christmas Eve 2020, she worked her way back through the arduous rehabilitation as her teammates defeated Ukraine in the play-offs four months later and then being fully fit for the final became her goal.

“Being on the sidelines when we qualified against Ukraine gave me that little bit more motivation and I’ve had the final in my head ever since that night,” said Vance.

“I always had small goals during my rehab and that doesn’t change now. I got through the season at Rangers and Northern Ireland and this is the next big one.”

However, there is an even bigger one.

Neither Vance nor her teammates are going to England just to make up for the numbers.

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Demi Vance, captain against Belgium, leads Northern Ireland out

Northern Ireland is arguably the lowest placed of the 16 teams in the tournament and most observers will expect Norway, Austria and England to finish on top when they meet.

Nobody in the squad thinks that way though, they’re not just going to Southampton with the intention of making it a two-week trip before heading home. The team wants to go into the last group game against England with a possible quarter-final place there for the taking.

“It’s nothing new for us if everyone thinks we’re going to be beaten in all three games – we’re always underdogs anyway,” said Vance.

“We know these three teams well as we’ve played all of them recently. We’re going to set something straight and we’ve shown that we’re not afraid of any team now, we’ve made it to our first major tournament and we’re going to give the best of ourselves and do our very best to win our competitions.

“We shocked everyone by qualifying in the first place, but it wasn’t a shock to us.

“Given the campaign we had after the defeat to Norway in the first game, we kept believing in every game and going into the Euros against Norway and Austria convinced that we can get the results.

“You never know what can happen, it’s tournament football and with the third game against England we think we have something to play for.”

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