Northern Ireland v Faroe Islands: Worthington wakes up to wonder of McCourt
Northern Ireland manager Nigel Worthington saluted a superb showing from Pat McCourt as the Celtic winger wowed Windsor Park with a dazzling performance against the Faroe Islands.
The 27-year-old was making a first competitive start for his country and rose to the occasion with aplomb, running the Group C minnows ragged and scoring two memorable goals in a 4-0 win.
Captain Aaron Hughes and midfielder Steven Davis got the others but it was McCourt's constant dribbling — and a wonderful 88th-minute chip — that will linger in the memory.
Hughes had ambitiously likened his team-mate to Barcelona ace Lionel Messi and he did not wilt under such lofty expectations.
“Paddy is just an entertainer,” said Worthington.
“He's always had the individual ability and now he has become more of a team player too.
“For his second goal you just have to stand there in amazement. Sometimes you wonder if he even knows what he is doing himself.
“He has fantastic ability but to be fair to Paddy it's not just that side of things, it's working for the team too.
“He's quietly confident, not a shouter or a ranter and raver, he just does it.
“There's not much more you can say, he just has magnificent individual ability.”
While delighted with McCourt, Worthington's primary focus was on the three points that lifted his side to third in Group C — two points away from second with a game in hand.
He admitted there was a period between Hughes' opener and Davis' 66th-minute strike when his side had let the Faroes back in, but was pleased with the second-half response.
“The most important thing was getting the points but we made hard work of it in the first-half after getting a perfect start,” he said.
“We got a perfect start because we did what we had practised in training. It got a bit sloppy because we were happy to play in front of the Faroes which suited them, but we sorted one or two things out at half-time and they carried it out to the letter.”
Faroe Islands manager Brian Kerr was not surprised by McCourt's display, having followed his career from the start.
The former Republic of Ireland boss said: “I've known Paddy going back a long time. I saw him as a young player at Rochdale when I was managing the Republic and going to games in the lower divisions.
“He showed a lot of promise and then at Derry City he had some outstanding times.
“Tonight was a good night for him, we couldn't cope with his skill and technique and it was a brilliant fourth goal.”