Belfast Telegraph

Dallas sees Northern Ireland's ability to stand firm as a highlight

By Graham Luney

There was joy and relief around Windsor Park on Sunday night with the supporters and players feeling the same emotions.

But in the case of Stuart Dallas, that joy and pride was something special.

The boy from Cookstown made his first Northern Ireland appearance at Windsor Park after impressing in the friendly against Scotland at Hampden.

When he replaced Niall McGinn in the 64th minute, the winger was handed his first taste of action in this extraordinary European Championship qualifying adventure for Northern Ireland.

And what a week it has been for the 23-year-old former Crusaders ace who made his senior international debut in the 2011 Carling Nations Cup tournament.

That competition was widely ridiculed but there could be no mistaking the importance of Dallas' contribution on Sunday.

His arrival on the left-wing kept a team vulnerable to counter-attacking football on the back foot but there was always going to be defensive duties to perform as well.

"I think it's definitely a massive three points," said a relieved Dallas (left). "We came here to win the game, we did that and it sets us up well for the match against Romania in June.

"We just had to keep our concentration at the end and they had a corner which put us under pressure but we coped with it very well.

"With the fans behind us we had to hang on and finally we got the ball cleared away from danger and saw the job through."

Belfast Telegraph