Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Billy on the Box: You can’t beat a bit of Corry on a Friday

Slovenia 0 Northern Ireland 1
Slovenia 0 Northern Ireland 1
Slovenia 0 Northern Ireland 1

A night of high drama on Friday evening as Corry got everyone’s pulses racing for the first time since Phyllis Pearce and Percy Sugden lost the run of themselves in the Rovers Return snug.

Yes, the roller-coaster ride that is Northern Ireland’s international matches is off and running again with the away day to Slovenia, brought to us by Sky, and every person who had ever heard of Ulster was wheeled out.

This includes new boy Jamie Weir, former token Setanta Norn Iron representative, and replacing resident Oirishman Pete Colley behind the scenes, confirming that the green and orange just don’t mix.

His demise is to be lamented but the show goes on, and thankfully the province’s best comic talent, and I include the rib-torturing William Caulfield in this, of Mark Robson and Gerry Arconada-Armstrong are back.

I found it hard to concentrate in the early stages, first day back and all that, and I was sure Robbo said it was a ‘Haribo stronghold’, and I pictured horrific scenes of the Green and White Army being strip-searched at the border for stashes of Riley’s Toffee Rolls secreted in their under-garments.

Turns out it was Maribor but when Grant McCann was described as having a ‘fizz bomb of a left foot’ I was confused again, especially after GAA (that’s Gerry) had hit us with the exclusive revelation that ‘you must score goals if you’re going to win football matches’. Stunning.

Robbo also brought his Big Boy’s Book of Slovenian Facts, and told us Maribor is 10 minutes from the Austrian border and that’s why they had a line resembling a heart monitor on their jersey.

Well it was to signify the mountains and ‘they have peaks on the front of them, but they haven’t reached too many peaks so far’, he continued before apologising for the ‘obvious pun’.

He didn’t happen to apologise for the one after half-time when he pointed out that “Slovenia have climbed the FIFA rankings quicker than a hyper-active Sherpa.” Clearly the Tensing was getting to him.

But that was all made right by the Nigel Worthington masterstroke (under-used phrase that one) of bringing on Corry Evans and the fairytale goal that ensured a ‘bucking bronco of emotion for the last 20 minutes.’

Similar words were being used on Tuesday night at Hampden Park, or I think the fans were shouting ‘bucking’ — the roar made it difficult to hear — but a crisis was averted with late drama at the end of Scotland’s demolition of Liechtenstein.

And then came the prize for daftest utterance of the international week, and that’s saying something when he was handed over to by Jim White, from interviewer David Tanner.

A relieved Stephen McManus was still probably in shock that no-one had mentioned the three facts everyone trots out about the principality — it’s national anthem is the same as ours, it has the same population as the borough of Limavady (thanks to Mark Sidebottom for that nugget) and they’re the world’s biggest manufacturer of false teeth.

Tanner should have needed the latter with his ‘was that a near-death experience?’ question to McManus. No, it isn’t. Your house coming down round your ears in New Zealand or your garden floating past your nose in Pakistan is a ‘near death experience’, not a little game of football.

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