Former Northern Ireland women’s football captain Gail Redmond has spoken of her surprise at being made an MBE in the New Year Honours.
The 43-year-old from Carrickfergus works at the Irish Football Association (IFA) as women’s development manager, working to ensure young girls and women are offered pathways to excel in the sport.
Redmond left home as an 18-year-old to attend university in Mississippi in the US on a football scholarship. After college she stayed in the United States for a further six years to work as a football coach.
When she returned home, she joined Glentoran and would go on to win 16 trophies with the east Belfast side.
Redmond continues to coach at Glentoran having hung up her boots on her playing career in 2016.
The married mother-of-two said she won “around 28 caps” for Northern Ireland and jokes that the lack of certainty over the total is indicative of the state of the women’s game when she played.
“When you played back in my day, the caps weren’t always recognised or there wasn’t always records kept,” she said.
“And it’s one of the things we’ve really done and changed within the IFA, that better records are kept for caps.
“It was about six years ago we gave caps to women who played in the ’70s and ’80s and who never received a cap before, and I was part of that team that was able to find all those women who played and was able to recognise them as trailblazers for what they had done before to pave the way for this international team to be successful.”
Redmond has been made an MBE for services to football.
The honour comes at the end of an unprecedented year for the women’s game in Northern Ireland following the team’s participation at the Euros in England – the first time the senior side has qualified for a major tournament.
“You always look out for the New Year Honours list and you’re excited to see who’s on it and certainly you never expect yourself to be honoured, or your own name to be shown to tell you the truth,” she said.
“I couldn’t actually really believe it.
“Because of obviously the remarkable year that we’ve had in women’s football, and how many people have done remarkable things, I certainly didn’t think that my name was going to be on it.”