Ten Greatest Matches No.1 Northern Ireland 7 Wales 0

Published: Happy Days issue 7

10 Greatest matches

Over the next few issues of HD, I will be looking at matches which Northern Ireland have played down the years which have helped define us as a footballing nation. Picking the ten greatest matches that Northern Ireland have been involved in isn’t an easy task. Defining greatness in itself is not easy. Entertainment is important, but so to is significance, so for this reason I have not included any ‘International Friendly’ games. The recent games which form the ‘Wednesday nights in September’ series have been overlooked as enough has been written about them in past HD issues. After much deliberation, here is the final ten

1. Wales 1930 (7-0)
2. England 1947 (2-2)
3. West Germany 1958 (2-2)
4. Scotland 1967 (1-0)
5. Yugoslavia 1975 (1-0)
6. Netherlands 1976 (2-2)
7. Spain 1982 (1-0)
8. West Germany 1982 and 1983 (1-0, 1-0)
9. England 1985 (0-0)
10. Austria 1995 (5-3)

Ten Greatest NI matches. No.1
1/2/1930 Belfast
Northern Ireland 7 Wales 0

Northern Ireland’s biggest ever win came against a Wales team who were enjoying arguably the most successful period in their history. Between 1920 and 1937 they won the Home Internationals Championship no fewer than seven times outright, no mean achievement considering the usual dominance of England and Scotland. However the 1929/1930 was to prove to be a disastrous campaign for the Welsh. Having already shipped four goals to Scotland and six to England, they may have arrived in Belfast looking to salvage some pride as the two traditionally weaker teams in the championship battled to lose the ‘wooden spoon’ tag. However, it was the Irish team that went home with their pride and a winning margin which remains unsurpassed to this day, slamming in seven goals against Wrexham goalkeeper Dick Finnegan who was never to play for his country again. The scoreline was all the more remarkable considering the Irish team featured three debutants, namely goalkeeper Alf Gardiner, James McCambridge and Jack ‘Soldier’ Jones. For Jones, international appearances were a family tradition. His brother Sam, uncles Sam and Joe Burnison and brother-in-law Billy Mitchell all turned out for Ireland. Only the Feeney family can claim such strong family ties with senior Irish representation.

The hero of the day was Linfield striker Joe Bambrick. Thought to have scored around 1000 goals in his 15 year career, he notched an unprecedented double hat-trick against the Welsh. Whilst captain Andy McCluggage scored the other goal, the day belonged to Bambrick in his greatest hour in a green shirt. His six goals in one match stood as a record in the championships until their conclusion in 1984. Such was his feat, that a week later a local soft drinks producer marketed a beverage called ‘Joe Six’ to mark his achievement. Indeed, he scored a total of 94 goals in the 1929/1930 season including all of the goals in Linfield’s 4-3 victory over Ballymena United to clench the Irish Cup Final. Over the course of his 11 caps, he managed an impressive 12 goals coining the phrase, “Head, Heel or Toe, Slip it to Joe.”

Team: A Gardiner, A. McCluggage, R.P. Fulton, W. McCleery, J. Jones, T. Sloan, R.J. Chambers, R.W.M. Rowley, J. Bambrick, J. McCambridge, J. Mahood

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