22/05/1984 Swansea Wales 1-1 Gerry Armstrong
Pat Jennings (Jim Platt), Nigel Worthington, Mal Donaghy, Gerry McElhinney, John McClelland, Ian Stewart, Norman Whiteside, Martin O’Neill, Billy Hamilton, Gerry Armstrong, Sammy McIlroy
Northern Ireland were in the midst of the ‘glory year’. Having won the British Championship outright in 1980 for the first time since 1914, they also qualified for the 1982 World Cup in Spain reaching the quarter-final stage.
The 1983-84 British Home Championship celebrated its one hundredth anniversary but it was also to be the final tournament as both England and Scotland sought bigger challenges.
Northern Ireland had defeated Scotland in their first match while Wales lost to the same side. In the second round of matches Northern Ireland lost to England but Wales managed an impressive victory against the English a month later. All was to play for as all sides had a realistic chance of winning the tournament.
A win for either Wales or Northern Ireland would go a long way in determining the outright winner of the tournament but because goal difference was now used to separate teams level on points it was beneficial to score as many as possible and try not to concede!
The first half was largely uneventful in terms of play with only injuries being noteworthy. Northern Irish winger Ian Stewart (Queens Park Rangers) left the field limping after a challenge by Wales’ Robbie James (Stoke City). The most serious injury however, was unfortunate enough to have happened to Pat Jennings (Arsenal) on the stroke of half-time. Blood was pouring out of a facial injury inflicted by the boot of Ian Rush (Liverpool) when Jennings bravely dived at the strikers feet to prevent him from scoring. With Northern Ireland having a World Cup qualifier against Finland only five days later, manager Billy Bingham replaced Jennings at half-time with Ballymena player-manager Jim Platt.
Platt’s first duty was to pick the ball out of his net on 52 minutes when Mark Hughes (Manchester United) shot from 18 yards out, the assist coming from Rush.
On 73 minutes Northern Ireland equalised from Gerry Armstrong (Real Mallorca) and they nearly snuck victory three minutes from the final whistle when Billy Hamilton (Burnley) headed the ball just wide after Nigel Worthington’s (Sheffield Wednesday) cross.
The draw suited Northern Ireland more than it did Wales as the Ulstermen knew that a draw in the final match of the tournament four days later between England and Scotland at Hampden Park would win them the last championship on goal difference. However, a win for either England or Scotland would grant them the championship instead. In the end both sides played out a 1-1 draw in Glasgow enabling Northern Ireland to win the championship outright by one goal!
The Irish Football Association were awarded the trophy and have held it permanently at their headquarters on Windsor Avenue ever since.
N. Ireland. 3 1 1 1 3 2. 3
Wales…… 3 1 1 1 3 3. 3
England…. 3 1 1 1 2 2. 3
Scotland… 3 1 1 1 1 3. 3
On 19th August 1983, England announced their withdrawal from the Home Internationals after the end of the 1983/84 season, the decision being taken at a meeting of the FA Council in London after which secretary Ted Croker admitted “Even one nation withdrawing means it is finished…. The matches against Northern Ireland and Wales are no longer the major attractions and crowd pullers they once were, even when played in Wales or Belfast, it was felt a halt had to be called.” In the matchday programme notes for the opening game of the competition, the president of the Irish FA Harry Cavan wrote; “We are gravely disappointed and sad that 100 years of genuine friendship, sporting traditions and close co-operation seems to have been sacrificed for financial expediency.” There was no ill feeling from Scotland however as the auld-enemy fixture would continue, at least for now.
Ironically it was the shunned nations who came out on top of the final British championship group and also came closest to qualifying for the Euro’s, Northern Ireland distinguished themselves as the last Home International champions and only missed out on a place in the Euro ’84 finals due to an inferior goal difference to holders West Germany whilst Wales – who signed off with a victory over England and the runners-up spot – would have gone to France had they got the right result from Yugoslavia’s outstanding Euro’s qualifying group game with Bulgaria. England surprisingly lost out to Denmark, Scotland finished rock bottom of their qualifying group as well as bottom of the Home International table.
Left back Nigel Worthington of Sheffield Wednesday made his debut for Northern Ireland. Mark Hughes put Wales ahead on 51 with a low drive from the edge of the box, Gerry Armstrong equalised on 75 with a downward header at the end of a cross by Norman Whiteside. Northern Ireland’s veteran keeper Pat Jennings had to be taken off at half time covered in blood after a collision with Ian Rush, Jennings said afterwards; “I got his boot in the face as I went down for a cross. You had better ask the other fellow if it was an accident.”
22/05/1971 Belfast Wales 1-0 Bryan Hamilton
Pat Jennings, Pat Rice, Sammy Nelson, Liam O’Kane, Allan Hunter, Jimmy Nicholson (Martin Harvey), Bryan Hamilton, Eric McMordie, Derek Dougan, Dave Clements, George Best
Wales lost to Northern Ireland at Windsor Park for the first time in twelve years. Injuries, club tours, Leeds featuring in the Fairs Cup final, the Anglo-Italian Cup Tournament and holidays deprived Wales of their experienced players for the game.
Northern Ireland showed adventurous play going forward from both midfield and attack while the defence were solid when on the rare occasions Wales forced an attack of their own.
Although Northern Ireland won the game with a Bryan Hamilton (Linfield) goal they should have won with a bigger margin as many good chances were missed.
* Trivia –
Northern Ireland boss Billy Bingham departed Northern Ireland to manage the Greece national side, but he left on a relative high with victories over both Scotland and Wales to finish a respectable second in the British Championships (behind England) after England defeated Scotland at Wembley on the same day.
Goalscorer Bryan Hamilton had been recently voted Northern Ireland’s Footballer of the Year while George Best (Manchester United) who also featured was celebrating his 25th birthday.