Here’s a fun fact for you all: when Northern Ireland last won a football match away from home, I hadn’t created this blog yet. I was still a young student preparing to start another year at university, which would actually turn out to be quite a significant year indeed, and Spain had only just been crowned World champions for the first time (in football terms at least). Yes, this was September 2010.
Fast-forward four years and one week; Northern Ireland beat Hungary in Budapest to get another qualifying campaign off to a (perhaps deceivingly) good start. As a Northern Ireland fan I do of course realise that winning this match does not in any way guarantee that we will beat the Faroe Islands next month, at home; the easiest fixture of our entire campaign being our next game and, for a Northern Ireland team, probably the biggest banana skin that awaits us. Only once we win that, even if it is a scrappy 1-0 result thanks to a dodgy last minute penalty, will I say this result against Hungary was truly worthy of celebration.
But for now, this result provides an opportunity. In fact, looking at our group, seeing that a Greece team without much individual quality in their squad are the top seeds in it, and seeing that we play them and Romania away from home in two of our first four matches, tells me that we have a great chance of heading to France for Euro 2016. If we could get 7 points out of these first four games, with three of those matches being away from home in fixtures we could quite easily have lost, it would be a fantastic start. Hopefully our home form, providing we don’t get complacent, would carry us on from there.
You can surely excuse me for being overenthusiastic about anything sport-related coming out of Northern Ireland recently. This past summer saw Rory McIlroy returning to the number one spot in the golf World rankings, having won the Open Championship in July and then the PGA Championship in August for his third and fourth major titles respectively. In the process of doing so he became the first European golfer ever to win three different majors. Did I mention he’s still only 25 as well?
Then last weekend, as a nice prelude to Northern Ireland’s win in Hungary on Sunday, Belfast boxer Carl Frampton challenged for and won the IBF World Super Bantamweight title in his (and my) home city.
So this week I just thought I would dwell on these successes, because you never know how brief such a purple patch may be. I am not giving you an in-depth article or insightful review to stick your teeth into; I’d like to think there are enough of those in the archives for now. After all, within a month or two this could all have changed and we will regret not having appreciated the brief taste of national sporting achievement for instead always wanting to come up with the next world-changing idea or opinion. Time to slow down. Take a breath of fresh air. And if you’re not Northern Irish, Irish, or interested in anyone else’s national success but your own, then you’re probably, for this post at least, in the wrong place at the wrong time.