The first time I saw my country win a match while I was there was this one. I had watched our two previous wins at home with my Dad on TV. They were Malta 3-0 and Uruguay 1-0 in 1989 and 1990 I think. This game was my first international of 1991, and it happenned on a cold February Wednesday night. I am writing this report in 2008, but looking back this match is definitely in my top 5 Northern Ireland matches. I will never forget it and I was so happy that night.
Poland were a good side at the time, and we were playing them in a friendly before our matches v. Yugoslavia and The Faroe Islands in the Euro 1992 qualifiers. I was at the match with my Dad, Michael, Gavin and Brian and I am sure we sat downstairs in the North Stand towards the end where two of Northern Ireland’s goals were scored – The Kop end. We went 1-0 down and I do remember thinking we might lose, but then a great free kick by Colin Hill I think was headed home by Gerry Taggart, who at the time was playing one of his first matches. If I remember correctly, it was also Taggart who set up Colin Clarke for his goal v. Denmark a few months earlier in our deserved 1-1 draw. Taggart rose well and we went in at 1-1 half time.
It was a wet night and I thought the place was packed as a 10 year old, it was a big game. Looking back at it on video, Windsor Park is actually very empty looking that night, it was in those days that going to a Northern Ireland match was a big event for me in my life. Now it’s merely part of my life which I take for granted. In those days I think I enjoyed it more really! We chanted “Northern Ireland du du du du du” and our team grew strong in the second half. Either Steve Morrow or Robbie Dennison went down in the box and it was left to Jim Magilton to put the penalty away. He calmly stroked it home on his debut and on his first ever squad appearance following success at Oxford United (where he played at White Hart Lane v. Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup a few weeks before). Magilton was happy as larry and it showed. Tagart then found himself on the end of a corner from Dennison to tap the ball home at the far post for our third goal to which he did a silly celebration. It was a great night at Windsor Park and one which will live with me forever because for the first time I had seen us win!
It’s now on You Tube thanks to a mate of mine called Davey:
I also have it on an old VHS including an interview with debutant Jim Magilton. In those days I never took any photos, so I have some stills of the game there for you, including one of goalkeeper Paul Kee who let in Robert Varsheeka’s weak shot in the first half. I’m in that photo somewhere, but it’s all a blur…
FINAL SCORE – Northern Ireland 3-1 Poland (Gerry Taggart 2, Jim Magilton 1 penalty)