Northern Ireland X1 v Queen’s Park Rangers X1
When I heard that a game was to be played in tribute to Alan McDonald in Belfast I knew it was a match I had to be at – a game for one of my all-time favourite players. My old school friend Darren Clark and I booked our flights and Darren sorted out the hotel as well as tickets for the newly opened Titanic Museum in Belfast. We had a highly enjoyable time in the city and the welcome from the locals far exceeded our expectations. Belfast is a wonderful place and well worth a visit.
All of the 30 or so people who visited from London seemed to enjoy themselves, with a number of Rangers fans travelling north from the Republic with Peter and Michael, two of the Swedish Hoops, flying in from Stockholm to Dublin and then getting the train up to Belfast. Now THAT is real support!
The match itself ended in a 3-2 win for Rangers in front of a crowd announced as 1,500, including some Luxembourg fans in town for their World Cup match the next day with Northern Ireland. Kevin Gallen opened the scoring, drilling the ball past Tommy Wright to put Rangers 1-0 up after 27 minutes. Paul Furling doubled Rangers’ lead before a comedy routine unfolded with Jimmy Quinn’s goal-bound shot blocked on the line by team-mate James Quinn. Quinn then made up for it by pulling a goal back, but Kevin Gallen soon restored the two-goal lead with the goal of the night.
Northern Ireland substitute, Glenn Ferguson, still had time to get in on the act scoring a consolation goal, his first – and last for his country. Keith Gillespie impressed in the Northern Ireland team, with Kevin Gallen Rangers strongest player. Very appropriately the number 5 shirts were exchanged at the start of the match instead of pennants and the stewards and staff all worked for free. Tony Roberts was in Greece on duty so Dean Thornton, one of the Rangers coaching staff, went in goal.
Northern Ireland X1: Wright, Nicholl, McClelland, Creigan, Donaghy, Gillespie, Magilton, McIlroy (c), Hughes, Dowie, Armstrong.
Subs: Jimmy Quinn, James Quinn, Dennison, Campbell, Wilson, Cleary, McBride.
QPR X1: Thornton, Herrera, Wilson, Maddix, Darren Peacock, Wilkins, Barker, Kevin Gallen, Sinton, Ferdinand (c), Bradley Allen
Subs: Challis, Steve Gallen, Maguire, Fereday, Langley, Bircham, Rowland, Lynch, Furlong.
Hopefully Rangers will consider holding something similar in London as so many fans would like to show their appreciation for an all-time Rangers great. With the right advance publicity it should be possible to get a gate of 4 to 5,000 plus.
When it was confirmed that a legends match would take place in Macca’s memory at Crusaders FC, Jimmy Murray organised flights and accommodation for us a bit sharpish. Later, Stephen Cross kindly purchased some tickets in Belfast.
Jimmy picked me up around 5.30am before collecting Paul Finney in Barnet. We then headed on to Luton Airport in good time for our 7.50am flight to Belfast International. We were booked in for one night at a Premier Inn situated in the Titanic Quarter of the city.
Later, we headed for the Kitchen Bar in the City Centre and met up with James Luck and also a number of other R’s fans. Jimmy hadn’t been in the best of health so we decided to leave the bar ahead of the others and get a bus to the ground. Also on board were Ron Hill and Roy Clark.
The first person I bumped into outside the ground was Roger Stokes and I then went over to collect my match ticket from Stephen Cross who was with Sean and his nephew Philip. As it was pouring of rain we decided to enter the ground early and once inside, Philip helped Jimmy tie up the Indy R’s flag behind the goal.
Gerry Francis managed the QPR side and Pat Jennings likewise for Northern Ireland. Jackie Fullerton, the Northern Ireland television presenter, commentated on proceedings pitch-side throughout the match and I have to say that he did a grand job.
This also helped in identifying some of the players and he also contributed some light-hearted moments too. He remarked that the match was sponsored by ‘Weight Watchers’ and after Northern Ireland legend Gerry Armstrong had headed wide from close range following good work by Keith Gillespie, he compared this with his 1982 World Cup triumph against the hosts in Valencia thirty years earlier by stating: “Gerry made a bollocks of that” !!!
For some reason he had referred to Simon Barker as a film star when he was announcing the teams and later during the match described him as ‘Simon Templar – the Saint’ ?
Iain Dowie also headed wide and at the other end Bradley Allen forced two very good saves from Tommy Wright.(Sir) Les Ferdinand volleyed over the bar following a cross from Andy Sinton. Kevin Gallen gave Rangers the lead through a well-placed shot in the corner. Jim Magilton hit the crossbar with a nice chip and Jimmy Quinn headed the ball wide. A good run by Les Ferdinand resulted in another great save from Tommy Wright. Half-time: 1-0.
During the interval Billy Hamilton, who I think now lives in Canada and I also believe that Macca had taken over his shop in Bangor, spoke passionately in his memory. Paul Finney had disappeared during the first-half and in fact I didn’t see him again till the following morning ! Alan (‘Dubliner’) had made it in time and I was pleased to meet up with’ inkedupp’ for the first time. He had driven up from the south-east of Ireland with a group of R’s fans.
Ian Stewart came on for the Northern Ireland side and as it was his wish to play for both sides, he later was to don a hooped jersey around 5 minute before the end of the match.
Paul Furlong made it 2-0 with a superb close range header and James Quinn reduced the deficit with a nice finish. This provoked a short and amusing rendition of the 60’s number, ‘The Mighty Quinn’ from ‘Yer Man’ ! Kevin Gallen belted in his second and Rangers third which prompted a few lines of ‘Magic Hat’. Glenn Ferguson’s shot went in off the post and the final score was 3-2 to the R’s. I understand that Andy Impey was at the game, but didn’t compete in the match.
Jimmy and I got the bus from the Shore Road back to the City Centre and from there we took a taxi as there were no more buses to the hotel. The following day we met Kevin Gallen at the airport before flying back to Luton.
It was a great trip in very sad circumstances of course, a fitting tribute to a legend, well done to everyone involved.
God Bless You Macca.
(The above pics were taken by Martin Percival. All rights are reserved and his photos are used by the Independent R’s with his permission)