Northern Ireland over-60s football team on top of the world in Zurich

Northern Ireland have won the over-60s five-a-side world cup at the prestigious tournament held this year in Zurich, Switzerland.

By Niall Deeney and Mark Rainey
Saturday, 21st May 2022, 1:24 pm
Updated Saturday, 21st May 2022, 1:29 pm
Northern Ireland over 60s World Cup 5-a-side winners in Zurich 2022. Included in the line-up is former Cliftonville captain Marty Tabb (16) and ex-Glenavon stirker Geoff Ferris (9).
Northern Ireland over 60s World Cup 5-a-side winners in Zurich 2022. Included in the line-up is former Cliftonville captain Marty Tabb (16) and ex-Glenavon stirker Geoff Ferris (9).

The age-defying veterans beat France, Hungary, Denmark and Wales on their way to victory at the home at the headquarters of the sport’s world governing body FIFA.

Another local veteran who excelled in Zurich was 78-year-old goalkeeper Terry Nicholson who turned out for the United Nations team in the over-65 category.

Bill McCluggage, who organised the trip, said the Northern Ireland teams are fairly dominant in the world of over-50s and over-60s football.

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Over 65s World Cup goalkeeper, 78-year-old former Crusaders keeper and ex-manager of Glenavon, Terry Nicholson.

“We played very well. We beat France, Hungary, Denmark and then beat Wales 4-0 in the final which was fantastic,” he said.

“We also won it in Paris in 2019 before the pandemic.

“We play a lot of home internationals against Wales, Scotland and England at over 50s, over 55s and over-60s.

“There were 350 people playing in the [Zurich] tournament.

“It is great for guys of our age and it is a credit to everyone who played here.”

Goalkeeper Terry Nicholson also travelled with the Northern Ireland team but was called up to represent the United Nations, alongside players from countries such as Canada and South Africa.

Mr Nicholson, a former Crusaders goalkeeper who went on to manage Glenavon, said the secret to staying fit and healthy at his age is all in the mind.

Speaking to the News Letter, he said he hopes to play a competitive match to celebrate his 80th birthday — just as he had done with the Donacloney Reserves back in 2014 to celebrate his 70th.

“I do keep myself fit and I love playing football,” he said. “I was blessed throughout my career that I didn’t have any serious injuries. I’m physically fit for a 78-year-old so as long as I can put a pair of gloves on I’ll still play.”

He continued: “I take life easy. I don’t stress about anything and I take life as it comes, so it could be a mental thing. I do know a lot of 60-year-olds who wouldn’t get up out of a chair. If you want a quality of life you have to keep yourself reasonably fit, and keep doing things.

“My next ambition is to play a competitive game for my 80th birthday, God willing.”

Mr Nicholson also appealed to the IFA to show more support for the Northern Ireland veterans’ teams who have enjoyed success on the international stage.

“There’s no support from any organisations or anything,” he said. “We did ask the IFA for support, and I would hope in the future they could get behind us.”

• The triumpant over-60s team: Billy McCluggage, former Larne Tech; Geoff Ferris, former Glenavon; Marty Tabb, ex-Cliftonville captain; Francis Miskelly, former Banbridge Town; Ronnie Haughey who played for Glenavon; Frank McCrane who played for Drumaness Mills; Danny Maxwell who played for Larne; Dessie Edgar, former Coleraine, Ian Garrett who played for Killyleagh.