Belfast Telegraph

Memories of heroes maligned by manky murals

By John Laverty

Hoylake came close at the weekend but, as Northern Ireland sporting moments go, the 75th minute of a football match at Windsor Park nine years ago takes some beating.

The shrewd pass from Steve Davis, the crucial touch from David Healy that took Ashley Cole out of the game, the 14,000 people holding their collective breath...

And then it came; the little man in the green No.9 shirt rifling a screamer past England goalkeeper Paul Robinson.

Many members of Northern Ireland's Green and White Army still get goosebumps when they bring it to mind.

For me, it remains the highlight of a lifetime of both watching and professionally covering sport.

I may have been all over the world, but I was one of the ecstatic gathering just up the road on September 7, 2005, and I love being reminded of that moment.

Driving past that terrific mural just off the Albertbridge Road in east Belfast always brought a pleasant memory jog – which was why I was so shocked to see how badly it had fallen into disrepair.

We're so proud of Healy and his Norn Iron team-mates – so when did we lose pride in the depiction of what they did that night?

You could say the same about the Higgy 'muriel' (as the local vernacular would have it) near the snooker maestro's birthplace, and the Windsor Park 'wall of shame' you see on this page.

I salute the initiative and resourcefulness of the people who put (and I'm borrowing some words from the Healy mural here) pride, passion and belief into these works of art.

That's what they are – and that's what our civic fathers should regard them as.

Put that City Hall beach on hold, Lord Mayor, and see the writing on the wall.

We're well aware of the controversy and consternation certain murals have caused down the years.

Here, however, the only dismay is in the dilapidation.

Our memories of Northern Ireland's many sporting successes may never fade but, as we've seen here, gloss paint eventually flakes and peels off.

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