(Reuters) - Northern Ireland Women's players came out in support of their coach Kenny Shiels on Thursday, a day after he apologised for saying women are "more emotional" than men.
After a 5-0 loss to England in a 2023 World Cup qualifier, Shiels said women were more likely to concede two goals in quick succession because they were more emotional. His remarks drew intense criticism and the 65-year-old issued an apology.
But Northern Ireland captain Marissa Callaghan said the team "collectively" stood by their manager.
"We feel his interview was in relation to a meeting we had as a team where we analysed that we concede goals in quick succession and emotions was one of the many things we discussed," Callaghan said in a statement on Instagram.
"Since Kenny took over our national team three years ago, I have always complimented him publicly on how he can get the best out of his players individually and collectively. He is a man of integrity who cares for us like we are family.
"Kenny has transformed the game here in Northern Ireland because he understands how to get the best out of his players. We have qualified for a major tournament because he transformed our mindset."
Northern Ireland have failed to reach the Women's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand but are set to play in the women's Euros in England in July after qualifying for the first time.
Shiels was criticised by former England goalkeeper Siobhan Chamberlain, who described his comment as 'bizarre' while Arsenal great Ian Wright said he was "talking foolishness".
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris)