Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland star Keith Gillespie to play at Bryansburn FC

By James Tait

Northern Ireland legend Keith Gillespie will be the star attraction when a local fans team take on their Finland counterparts at Ballywooley Playing Fields on Sunday (kick-off 11.00am).

The friendly game has been organised as part of the build-up to Northern Ireland's crucial Euro 2016 qualifier against the Finns at Windsor Park, which kicks off six hours later.

Michael O'Neill's men lie in second place in Group F, one point behind leaders Romania, after three wins from their opening four games and success over Mixu Paatelainen's side could all but guarantee at least a play-off spot in the push to qualify for the finals in France.

Gillespie, who became a firm fan favourite during his 14-year international career, won 86 caps for his country, scoring two goals and had key roles in the infamous triumphs over England in 2005 and Spain the following year.

Fans matches, which have been ongoing prior to many Northern Ireland games for the best part of 15 years, are used to promote fairness and equality and build positive relationships with fellow supporters throughout Europe.

Stuart Mellon, who will be lining up for the NI fans team on Sunday, said: "We work very closely with the Football For All community relations department within the IFA to implement and promote all that is good within our national game.

"We advocate fairness and friendship, giving respect to all, regardless of gender, race, religion and ability. We are also active in charity work and over the years have raised tens of thousands of pounds for various charities both at home and abroad."

Everyone is welcome to attend the fans match, with admission free of charge. The sides will contest two 30-minute halves and presentations, lunch and a charity ballot will follow the game.

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