Belfast Telegraph

Healy: Northern Ireland played with heart and pride

By Paul Ferguson

Healy: Northern Ireland played with heart and pride No net gain: Italy keeper Gianluigi Buffon slams the brakes on Northern Ireland striker David Healy last nightBY paul ferguson

David Healy last night insisted a youthful Northern Ireland side tried to repay departing boss Nigel Worthington with a performance he could be proud of.

Worthington, due to 10 withdrawals from his initial squad, was forced to play six youngsters alongside the more experienced players such as Maik Taylor, Chris Baird, Gareth McAuley, Steven Davis and Healy.

Despite the 3-0 victory for Italy which confirmed Northern Ireland finishing fifth in Group C, Healy believes it wasn’t a poor performance and the young players should be given credit for frustrating the Italians during long periods of play.

“It was a really tough game but that’s what you expect against a side like Italy,” admitted Healy, who earned his 91st cap last night.

“People are going to look at the result and say we were hammered however I think that’s really unfair. Italy are a fantastic team and while we are disappointed to get beat we showed a lot of pride and heart — that’s what Nigel instilled in us during his four and a half years in charge of Northern Ireland.

“We wanted to go out there and give him a performance to be proud of in his final game.”

While Italy were always in command due to two goals from Antonio Cassano, Northern Ireland did create goalscoring opportunities.

“We had a few half chances with Ryan McGivern’s header and Warren Feeney going close so it was always a case of never giving up,” added Healy. “I know Aaron Hughes and Stephen Craigan have decided to call it a day but I’m hoping the experienced players stick around and help this great group of young players.”

Healy has had well documented bust-ups with boss Worthington, especially after being left out of the squad earlier this year.

But he added: “People may have said Nigel I had our differences but the thing that I thought was great about Nigel was that he was honest. Players respect that.

“The fans obviously voiced their disapproval at Nigel, and they are entitled to do that, however we all tried our very best for Northern Ireland and it just didn’t work out for us during these qualifiers.

“Lady Luck just didn’t shine on Nigel during his time in charge but credit to him — he never lost his dignity when people were having a go.”

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