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Irish eyes on England

Posted on 15 December 2003  - 12:00

Tottenham Hotspur (Spurs) Football Club is located in North London. The club is also known as Spurs. Tottenham's home ground is White Hart Lane. The club motto is Audere est Facere (To dare is to do).

Young Northern Ireland age-group internationals Mark Hughes and Kieran McKenna suspect that their national team will have nothing to lose when they come to play England in the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers.

The draw was made just over a week ago and Northern Ireland were drawn into group six of the European section along with England, Wales, Poland, Austria and Azerbaijan.

England were instantly installed as favourites to emerge victorious from the qualifiers, but both Kieran and Mark hope that the encounters having a 'local derby' feel might just help Northern Ireland.

"It is a very good draw for us and I suppose the team will have nothing to lose in a game like that," reasoned under-19 international Kieran (right). "They won't be expected to win, but I'm sure they will get a good crowd at home which will bring some money in.

"England will be big favourites, but the form book can go out of the window in games like this."

Under-21 international Mark (below) views the high-profile qualifiers as a chance for his nation to put themselves back on the footballing map.

"I think it is a good opportunity for Northern Ireland to get a bit of credibility back," he considered. "We haven't done so well in qualifying for a while and there will be a lot of people watching the games against England and Wales.

"It is a good chance for us, the crowd are really going to get behind the team, it will be a great night and will create good interest."

So for those of us who have not kept tabs on Northern Ireland since the days of Gerry Armstrong and Big Pat, who are the key players in the Northern Ireland set-up these days?

"David Healy is a very good player, he came on the scene and scored goals, but has unfortunately dried up a bit since," reports Kieran. "Aaron Hughes of Newcastle always does well for his country, as does McCartney at Sunderland," he added.

"I think Damien Johnson has been the best performer from what I've seen," countered Mark. "I've been to the games with the other under-21 players and Damien, along with Hughes are players that I definitely look up to.

With the qualifiers set to take place next season, the prospect of featuring against England is the perfect incentive for Mark to impress whoever the new national team boss might be.

"Definitely, I'm not sure when the games will be, but I've got this season to try and make that step up. I'm happy with the way I'm playing so hopefully I'll get that bit of luck."