04/10/1947 Belfast Scotland 2-0 Sammy Smyth (2)
Ted Hinton, Con Martin, Bud Aherne, Willie Walsh, Jackie Vernon, Peter Farrell, Davy Cochrane, Sammy Smyth, David Walsh, Alec Stevenson, Tommy Eglington
04/10/1958 Belfast England 3-3 Wilbur Cush, Bertie Peacock, Tommy Casey
This was Northern Ireland’s first match following the successful World Cup tournament in Sweden where Northern Ireland had reached the Quarter-Finals of the competition.
The evening in question was extremely wet, as rain drenched fans witnessed a six goal thriller including, the indomitable courage of Northern Ireland; a man of the match performance from a young Bobby Charlton and a splendid display by Tom Finney who was nearing the end of his glorious career.
Northern Ireland had taken the lead from a Wilbur Cush shot past England goalkeeper Colin McDonald however, Bobby Charlton soon equalised with a superb strike. Charlton would be a thorn in the Northern Ireland side keeping the defence and in particular Harry Gregg busy throughout the match.
Bertie Peacock put Northern Ireland back into the lead with a shot through a crowded penalty area, while a Billy Bingham shot was parried by McDonald and cleared by Don Howe which could have given the Irish a two goal lead.
Inevitably though England equalised through Tom Finney, who in doing so broke the English goal scoring record (30 goals) held previously by Bolton’s Nat Lofthouse.
The talent of this 1958 Northern Ireland squad was further evident when they took the lead for a third time, Tommy Casey the scorer. Casey bulldozed his way in, charging both ball and goalkeeper into the net, despite English protestations of both a foul and offside, the goal stood. England equalised through Bobby Charlton who was set up by Johnny Haynes. Charlton danced inside two defenders before scoring with yet another thunderbolt from long range to make the score 3-3.
Northern Ireland pushed hard for a winner especially through the flanks occupied by Peter McParland and Billy Bingham (having hit the woodwork on two occasions) but the English defence managed to hold on for a draw.
Such was the high standard of play that the result was relegated to an irrelevancy however, Northern Ireland showed the world that their exploits in Sweden was no fluke and that they could hold their own against the bigger nations. They subsequently went onto share the British Championship that season. For England, the draw meant a seventh successive game without victory; it remains, to this day, the worst such run in their entire history.
NB. The little Swedish boy adopted by the Northern Ireland team at their 1958 World Cup base in Tylosand Sweden as their mascot, Bengt Jonasson, was a guest of the Irish Football Association for this match. Players and officials raised funds to bring him to Belfast to be reunited with his friends. He was introduced to the audience at a gala show the previous night at the Ritz cinema, as well as the Windsor crowd and afterwards to the boxing fans in the King’s Hall.
04/10/1952 Belfast England 2-2 Charlie Tully (2)
This was Charlie ‘the clown prince’ Tully’s game, as he gave England’s full-back Alf Ramsey a torrid time. Tully scored both Northern Ireland’s goals including one directly from a corner! “I gave Alf a tough day but he never attempted to rough it up. It was not his style; he always played his football fairly,” said Tully. Some say that Tully’s performance that day eclipsed that of George Best’s against Scotland in 1967.
Charlie Tully’s pre-match chat with his marker Alf Ramsey that day:
“CT: ‘What’s it like to be an automatic selection for your country, Mr Ramsey?’
AR: ‘It’s an absolute privilege, Mr Tully.’
CT: ‘Good, because you won’t be one after today …’”
England played very poorly, although that was largely down to the Irish tactics, which did not allow England to express themselves as they would have wished.
It started so well for England. A minute after kick-off, a beautiful long through-ball by Wright found Lofthouse, who carried on where he had left off the previous summer, scoring with a low cross-shot as Uprichard came to meet him. Ireland equalised in slightly freakish circumstances after 15 minutes. Tully forced a corner, then took it himself. As it swung in, Ramsey ducked, expecting Merrick to have it covered. Merrick, though, was caught unawares, and the ball went straight in.
A horrific collision between McMorran and Dickinson on the half-hour saw both leave the field. Dickinson returned ten minutes later, but McMorran did not return until a few minutes into the second half. It was thus whilst Ireland were playing ten against eleven that they took the lead. Blanchflower flicked on a McMichael free kick, and Tully shot past a partially unsighted Merrick. The goal caused bedlam in the stands, as Ireland sniffed a famous win. Merrick denied the returning McMorran a goal that would have clinched victory, but England did have a few chances of their own before finally snatching a draw. Froggatt, wide on the right, collected a reverse pass from Wright and crossed for Elliott to score with a clean header.