Belfast Telegraph

Evans duo set for Northern Ireland history books

Jonny and Corry first brothers to star at finals for Green and White Army

By Steven Beacom

When they were growing up, Jonny and Corry Evans used to go outside their family home in Newtownabbey and pretend they were playing in a major football tournament.

Sometimes dreams do come true.

On Sunday, Northern Ireland will play at the Euro 2016 finals against Poland with older brother Jonny sure to start and Corry a good bet to come off the bench.

If the siblings both play at the weekend or in forthcoming Group C games against Ukraine and Germany, they will become the first Northern Ireland brothers to play in the finals of a major competition.

It should have been Danny and Jackie Blanchflower at the 1958 World Cup finals, but sadly the latter was seriously injured in the Munich air crash months before the tournament.

In France, the Evans boys will hope to join a whole host of well known brothers who have played in the European Championships.

They include Italy's Franco and Giuseppe Baresi, Germany's Bernd and Karlheinz Förster, Holland's Erwin and Ronald Koeman, Denmark's Brian and Michael Laudrup and England's Gary and Phil Neville.

Mum Dawn, dad Jackie and sister Katie will be at the matches to see Northern Ireland history being made.

No wonder there is a great sense of pride in the family - and having two players at the finals means more tickets!

"The good thing is, we get to share tickets, so we've already talked about swapping a few around. Corry has sorted my mum out with a ticket and I'll sort out my dad with a ticket," said West Brom defender Jonny.

"It's great for both of us and it will be an amazing occasion.

"To be honest, I think it will be extra special for all the players' families and anyone involved in the squad and set-up.

"It's a massive tournament and occasion and one we can't wait to be involved in."

The former Manchester United man admits that as a kid he and his younger brother didn't think Northern Ireland would be playing at a Euro finals or World Cup so they chose different teams when kicking a ball around the street or park.

"For some reason, Corry was always a Brazil fan and I was an Italy fan growing up," said the 28-year-old.

"Corry liked the Brazil kit, so he was always Roberto Carlos, and I was Paolo Maldini.

"We always looked at the major teams in the tournaments and we'd play against each other, whether it was outside with an actual football or on Fifa."

Asked who won the games in those days, Evans senior was diplomatic.

"It was pretty even, to be fair. It was never aggressive. We got along well with it," he said.

Blackburn Rovers midfielder Corry added: "I'm very proud. It's going to be great to be in France with Jonny and hopefully playing on such a big stage in front of thousands of people.

"We've definitely made our family proud representing our country together, but to do it at the European Championships would be extra special.

"We have quite a few family members, so we have had to get lots of tickets. I think this is going to be a great experience for everyone connected with Northern Ireland."

The 25-year-old, who began his career at Old Trafford, admits that when parents Dawn and Jackie see their boys in France it could be an emotional time for them.

"I think they will be emotional," said Evans junior.

"They've let us know how emotional they are before, so it will be a great occasion for them seeing their sons at this tournament.

"I think, though, that all family members of players in the squad will be emotional watching their sons playing. It's no different for us."

With Jonny and Corry at different clubs now having both started out at United, there is always that problem for the parents about which game they go to watch at weekends.

The Blackburn ace explained the Evans clan have been fortunate in that regard over the past 12 months.

"Lucky enough over the course of the season just past, when I've been playing home, Jonny has been away, and vice versa, so my dad or mum have been quite lucky to see us each week," he added.

"And when we are with Northern Ireland obviously they are coming to see us together at the same time.

"Everyone in the camp is really excited about the next few weeks ahead. The build-up has been really, really good for us in terms of training facilities and getting work done and everyone is looking forward to the matches now.

"There will be thousands of Northern Ireland fans at all of our games in the finals and we are determined to give them something to shout about."

Belfast Telegraph