David Healy last night spoke of his joy at a boy from Londonderry lighting up Windsor Park in the same week another Derry footballer turned his back on Northern Ireland.
The build up to the vital Euro 2012 qualifier against the Faroe Islands was dominated by James McClean proclaiming it was his dream to play for the Republic of Ireland. But who needs McClean when another former Derry City winger can conjure this type of magic.
This 4-0 victory featured a first international goal from Aaron Hughes and a stunning finish from Steven Davis but it will always be remembered as the night Paddy McCourt proved he belonged on this stage.
The opponents may have been only the Faroe Islands but his two goals were worthy of any occasion — the 28-year-old is the new darling of Windsor.
“There’s been a lot of talk about players’ hunger to play for Northern Ireland but Paddy is a Celtic player and a Derry boy and I’m delighted he has performed so well,” said Healy.
He has shown character and a desire to play for his country. Paddy’s a star — he’s always been a star. I can remember his first game when Sammy McIlroy brought him in against Spain and people where asking what is going on?
“He has all the ability in the world and he goes past defenders as if it’s too easy. He will lose possession the odd time but it was nice to hear the fans singing ‘Are you (Lionel) Messi in disguise?’ Paddy did what everyone knows he can do — score two magnificent goals.”
Healy saw his low drive in the first half tipped onto the post by keeper Jakup Mikkelsen.
“The keeper got his hand to one of my shots but it’s not about me, it’s about the team and we got the result,” added the Rangers striker.
“We got the goals and thankfully Davo (Steven Davis) scored in the second half which lifted the pressure off us.”
Northern Ireland are now two points behind second-placed Slovenia with a game in hand and there is renewed self-belief in the camp they can qualify out of Group C.
McCourt’s Celtic team-mate Niall McGinn, on loan at Brentford, also looked lively when he came on as a second half substitute.
“I’m delighted for Paddy,” said McGinn. “Everyone knows what he can do. It’s always nice to hear the fans singing Paddy’s name and I was pleased to come on and make a contribution. They created a few opportunities but Paddy’s ability saw us home.”