01/10/1949 Belfast Scotland 2-8 Sammy Smyth (2)
Pat Kelly, Gerry Bowler, Alf McMichael, Danny Blanchflower, Jackie Vernon, Ray Ferris, Davy Cochrane, Sammy Smyth, Bobby Brennan, Eddie Crossan, Johnny McKenna
DESPITE being one of the four oldest associations in football Northern Ireland’s participation in the World Cup didn’t begin until after WW2.
Up until that point the four British associations had been absent from FIFA since 1920 which, of course, had excluded them from the three post-war tournaments.
However in the years immediately after the war FIFA launched a real charm offensive on the four absent associations, offering a vice-presidency to Scotland and a place on the executive to each of the others in return for their participation in the 1950 preliminary series.
Not only that but they were willing to allow the 1949/50 British Championship to double up as a qualifying group initially guaranteeing the winners (later extending that to include the runners-up as well!) a place in the Brazil finals.
Northern Ireland had the honour of hosting the first ‘British’ World Cup qualifier when Scotland visited Windsor Park on October 1st 1949 …… but unfortunately that’s where the good news ends.
In front of a 50,000-strong crowd the Scots raced into a three-goal half-time lead and although Sammy Smyth scored twice after the break the visitors banged home another five to emerge more than comfortable 8-2 victors.
Incidentally, the great Danny Blanchflower made his debut that day – a man who was to go onto make an idelible mark on Northern Ireland’s footballing folklore.
Another international rookie was Scotland’s Henry Morris. He marked the occasion with a hat-trick yet was amazingly never picked again!
Author: Martin Harris
* Trivia –
Pat Kelly in the Irish goal won his one and only cap in this game. Media reports at the time blamed him for three of the Scottish goals that day. As well as Pat Kelly and Danny Blanchflower, Gerry Bowler, Alf McMichael, Ray Ferris, Eddie Crossan and Johnny McKenna made their debuts in this game for Ireland.