May 18, 2016

    N. Ireland get first-time bite at cherry


    NORTHERN Ireland, despite a proud history in world football, will be appearing in their first-ever European Championship.

    Amid all the political recriminations in Ireland, Northern Ireland started playing under their current name in the 1950s.

    They have advanced to the World Cup three times and reached the quarter-finals in 1958.

    When Norman Whiteside took the field against Yugoslavia in the World Cup in Spain in 1982, he was just 17 years and 41 days old.

    He was the youngest player in the tournament and more than 200 days ahead of Pele who set his record at the 1958 event.

    Irish relations have come a long way since a notoriously tough World Cup qualifier between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic in Belfast on Nov 17, 1993.

    Ten weeks earlier, 10 people were killed in an Irish Republican Army bomb attack in the city.

    A week later, eight people died in a revenge attack.

    Current Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill was a substitute that tense night when Jimmy Quinn put the North ahead in a packed Windsor Park.

    Alan McLoughlin scored an equaliser but there were no celebrations.

    "You didn't dare look around and make eye contact.

    "The venom in their eyes shocked me," McLoughlin remembered.

    O'Neill's team have set one record before they even arrive in France for Euro 2016.

    The 1-1 draw against Wales on March 29 took the team to 10 straight games without defeat, beating the nine games that Billy Bingham's men had managed in 1979-80 and 1985-86.






    N. Ireland