Release Date: 06/06/2012
The NI Veterans were celebrating, at the weekend, as they retained the home Internationals trophy after beating Scotland, Wales and England on home soil following three highly competitive fixtures.
NI won the inaugural trophy last year in Largs, Scotland and as Sir Alex Ferguson is fond of saying it is always tougher to win back to back trophies!
NI veteran’s manager Mark Hughes was ecstatic at his teams win. “It has been a terrific weekend, fantastic weather, a first class pitch, very competitive opposition and of course Van Morrison playing in Newcastle. Lifting the trophy again was a tremendous effort from our players – my mama told me there’ll be days like this!” said Hughes
The green, green, grass of home certainly gave the Irish lads an advantage as they recorded wins over the Scots, Welsh and English. However, Irish nerves were jangling on Sunday when they faced a determined England side that had the temerity to equalise before succumbing to a late equaliser that sparked wild celebrations amongst the NI players.
Three games in three days is a big ask for most teams let alone veterans and all credit to all of the players for playing some superb football throughout.
The tournament kicked off on Friday evening with a very impressive Welsh team beating England. Next up was Northern Ireland against tournament favourites Scotland. The Scots never knew what hit them as the boys in green started in whirl wind fashion. After just two minutes Paul Pleasance won the ball in midfield, released Seamus Heath on the left and his inch perfect cross was headed home at the back post by Paddy Barr.
Fifteen minutes later is was 2-0 after Ronnie Haughey and Brian McKibben combined to find Heath on the left wing. Once again Heath’s perfectly flighted cross was headed home by Barr, whom the Scots were finding increasingly impossible to mark.
The Scots came more into the game, after this, but rarely tested Mickey Keenan in the home goals. On the stroke of half time the impressive Barr out-paced the Scots defence and squared the ball to Heath who forced a superb save from keeper Hamilton.
Scotland looked a different side after the break with Keenan having much more to do and he was well supported by Dessie Edgar and Rab McMillen.
Midway through the second half a nice one two with Ray Kendall released Angus McCullough who was only stopped by a superb last ditch tackle. However, McCullough reacted quickest and, after latching onto the loose ball, lobbed the keeper to break the Scot’s resistance.
The Irish were content to play out the half and with the Scots pushing forward gaps were beginning to appear in defence. Jim Gardiner sprang the Scots offside trap and bore down on goal, as the keeper advanced he squared the ball to McCullough to complete a comprehensive if somewhat unexpected victory over a very good Scots side.
NI player boss Mark Hughes was naturally pleased with his side’s start. “What a great performance from the lads against a very experienced and talented Scots side that included a number of players with SPL experience” said Hughes
“This sets us up nicely for our next game against Wales who beat England”
Saturday’s games saw the Scots defeat the “Auld Enemy” England in a cracking game which the Scots won 2-0. A spectator remarked that the last time he had seen the Scots beat England so convincingly was when he watched “Braveheart” on SKY!
NI and Wales sensed that the winner of their encounter would have the impetus to go on and lift the Home International’s trophy.
Having watched the Welsh beat England the Northern Ireland players had a simple game plan don’t give them any time on the ball!
However, things did not go to plan and the Welsh dominated the opening exchanges winning plenty of possession and looking much sharper in front of goals. The Irish defence of Dessie Edgar, Brian McKibbin, Rab McMillan and Mark Hughes held firm and restricted the Welsh to a couple of weak headers that keeper Dessie Milne gobbled up!
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