Northern Ireland fans daring to dream after record breaking start to Euro 2020 qualifying campaign

The Green and White Army are making their way back home after another European adventure which resulted in an extremely unfamiliar experience ... back to back wins on the road.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 12th June 2019, 6:31 pm
Gareth McCarter (centre) celebrates the winning goal in Estonia with Nigel McMahon and Philip Doyle
Gareth McCarter (centre) celebrates the winning goal in Estonia with Nigel McMahon and Philip Doyle

In fact Northern Ireland now sit top of group C – ahead of Germany and the Netherlands – with a maximum of 12 points.

One supporter who witnessed NI pick up four wins in a row at the start of a qualifying campaign for the first time in the nation’s history believes Michael O’Neill’s men have shown the desire it takes to reach the Euros again.

Gareth McCarter, who is secretary of City of Armagh Northern Ireland Supporters Club, spoke to the News Letter today from Belarus.

Gareth outside the Dinamo Stadium in Minsk, Belarus

As well as witnessing back to back victories in football, the Armagh cricketer even managed to squeeze in a game at the Cricket World Cup before heading to Tallinn.

He said: “A group of us from Armagh Cricket Club were at the Australia vs West Indies match in Nottingham on the Thursday. It was great game.

“From Nottingham we bused it to London, flew to Helsinki and then to Tallinn for the Estonia game. For the Belarus game we got a boat back to Helsinki and then flew to Minsk.”

Tomorrow Gareth and his friends will fly to Amsterdam and then back to Belfast.

Northern Ireland fans during Tuesday night's Euro 2020 qualifier against Belarus. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

“Sure what other way would you do it?” he joked.

Of NI’s record-breaking feat he said: “It’s pretty special. We were just talking before we came out here about how many away wins we’ve watched while we’ve been following Northern Ireland. It hasn’t been too many.

“On Saturday against Estonia we were pretty poor but we managed to turn it around in the second half. Against Belarus we played well and were good value for the win.

“To win two in a row on top of the two home games against the same teams shows we can dig deep. They were absolutely shattered against Belarus, it was a 10 o’clock kick off but it was still pretty warm. They really worked hard.”

Gareth estimated there were around 650 away fans in Belarus on Tuesday, with around double that at the previous game in Estonia.

He commented: “The locals have been as friendly as they can be with limited English. The majority seem totally oblivious to football, they have no real interest.

“There was a good atmosphere with the travelling support. Especially in the old town in Estonia.”

Regarding qualification he said: “We’ve got 12 points now, but it would be no shock if we finished on 12 points after our next four games against Germany and the Dutch. What’s for sure is the team will be well set out and give all they have.

“Maybe we can nick a point here or there to make second though I’d imagine we might be okay to make the play off from third.”