Wednesday, 9 December 2009

A Northern Ireland football museum?

The East Londonderry MLA, David McClarty, has suggested that a football museum should be included in plans to find the Northern Ireland international team a permanent home. It is an excellent idea.

Whether Windsor Park is redeveloped, or a new stadium is built, the IFA has a rich history dating back to 1880. It is one of oldest associations in the world. There is a fascinating story to be told about the overachievement of its representative teams, as well as the critical part Northern Ireland played in the development of the game.

Famously, William McCrum, a goalkeeper and businessman from County Armagh, is credited with the invention of the penalty kick.

Then there is the gallery of star players who have represented Northern Ireland, from Elisha Scott to David Healy, and the most celebrated of them all, George Best.

For many years Northern Ireland was the smallest country ever to have qualified for the World Cup. In 1958 Danny Blanchflower’s team reached the quarter finals. And in 1982 a player from the 1958 squad, Billy Bingham, reprised Blanchflower's managerial achievement and, in so doing, led his side to its most famous victory. Ten brave men inflicted a 1-0 reverse on the competition’s hosts, Spain.

Bingham and his team would qualify for the 1986 finals in Mexico too. Forty year old Pat Jennings played his last international game against Brazil.

And surely pride of place in any football museum would go to the Home International trophy! The last championship took place in 1984 and Northern Ireland remain champions of Britain. Another extraordinary achievement for Bingham and his players.

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