Couldn’t say no when Northern Ireland came calling, says Ellie Mason after switching international allegiance

Ellie Mason is a player in demand. Having two countries give him his call-ups within 24 hours is not something particularly common in international football.

After winning two caps for Gibraltar in February, she is now ready to play for two national teams in just eight months after being persuaded to switch allegiance to Northern Ireland.

It was a decision made with mixed emotions, but one that for footballing reasons was simple and Mason is ready to slip into Kenny Shiels’ squad without issue if he makes a second international debut against Luxembourg tomorrow. .

Gibraltar is still a developing nation when it comes to women’s football and the cup and push for the World Cup qualifiers – despite Northern Ireland being out of contention for a play-off – was too big.

“When the opportunity came with Northern Ireland I couldn’t say no. It was just something I had to do,” said Mason, who qualifies through his Ballymena-born grandfather. .

“I look at the level – Gibraltar only play friendlies and Northern Ireland play competitive matches, major tournaments and push to qualify again in the future and that’s something I want to be able to push in. my career.

“To take this opportunity and get it, for me, that’s what I want to do and hopefully improve the team.

“It’s exciting for me to be involved in the World Cup qualifiers. I appreciate the opportunity, I want to seize it and do my best.

It’s been just seven weeks since Northern Ireland performed on the big stage at the 2022 Women’s Euro final.

After suffering defeats in all three games against eventual champions Norway, Austria and England, and losing star striker Simone Magill to a long-term injury, there wasn’t much something to remember as positives.

Without being in Southampton, manager Shiels may not have had the chance to benefit from the services of Mason, who lives in the city, nor does the green and white army have an impact they knew nothing about at the time. ‘era.

“It was weird how it worked and the team was based in Southampton for the Euros – which was quite lucky and quite funny too,” Mason said.

“Everything went well to be able to go see Kenny. I went to see all the Northern Ireland games, which was pretty cool.

“I was watching thinking that if I ever had the opportunity, if it came up, I was going to grab it with both hands. The fans were on top. There’s a huge fan base and that’s huge for me. .

“Seeing the fans at the Euros showed me that it’s just one big family and that’s really good.”

Although still relatively young at 26, Mason has traveled extensively since her early days at Chelsea as a teenager, where she was a teammate with Northern Ireland international Laura Rafferty – although the two will have to wait to play in the green. shirt together after Rafferty retired from that team.

“I like playing behind. The way the Northern Ireland team play is literally me,” said the defender.

“I like to take the ball, play outside, so for me the style of play is definitely there for me.”