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Euro 2016 gives retired Christian youth leader new mission - to follow N Ireland

Published 14/06/2016

Alan Moorland (left) with his father Harry and Alan's brother Peter, as Harry, a Christian missionary who left the loyalist heartland of Rathcoole to spread the Bible in Cork, has followed Northern Ireland to France
Alan Moorland (left) with his father Harry and Alan's brother Peter, as Harry, a Christian missionary who left the loyalist heartland of Rathcoole to spread the Bible in Cork, has followed Northern Ireland to France

A Christian missionary who left the loyalist heartland of Rathcoole to spread the Bible in Cork has followed Northern Ireland to France.

Retired Presbyterian youth leader Harry Moreland, 67, and his sons Alan and Peter are proud Ulster men who drive the length of Ireland regularly to watch their team at Windsor Park and return the same night.

Mr Moreland went south 20 years ago with his family but vowed he would not abandon his roots.

"We never forget the North, we will never forget the North, we never forget where we came from which is Rathcoole," he said.

"You can never leave your identity behind because you are who you are so I still support Ulster in the rugby but at the same time I also understand if anybody says they want to follow Munster but I think it is so important that we remember where we came from."

They travelled with a friend to Nice on the French south coast for Northern Ireland's opening clash against Poland on Sunday.

The group netted a good deal on flights from Cork because most of the traffic was heading towards Paris and the Republic's fixture.

Alan Moreland, 37, said: "I checked out a camper van but it was working out way more expensive. Plus you had to be sober enough to drive."

He said he was unapologetically an Ulsterman and if Munster had the opportunity to compete in a major tournament they would probably be delighted.

But the retail manager in Cork city admitted he had taken a bit of stick about his support for Northern Ireland at his workplace, Cummins Sports.

"They put up Euro 2012 bunting in work but there was no Northern Ireland flag so I printed one off the computer and stuck it over Greece because they did not qualify," he said.

"They were all laughing at me, there were customers in the shop looking at me and going what are you doing and I was telling them and they were all laughing their heads off, stapling a little paper flag on it."

Harry used to bring his sons as children to see Northern Ireland - Alan's earliest memory was of Jimmy Quinn scoring against Turkey in 1987.

Former Northern Ireland centre half Alan McDonald lived around the corner.

"If we qualified we were going by hook or by crook, it did not matter how we got there, we were definitely coming, we might never get a chance to go away with my brother and my dad again to a major finals," he said.

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