Belfast Telegraph

Estonia v Northern Ireland: Healy has caps record in his sights

By Steven Beacom

Normally the only targets strikers set themselves relate to goals, but then David Healy has always been a different breed for Northern Ireland.

Down the years he's made no secret about it — one day he wants to tell his kids he's appeared more times for his country than any other outfield player.

The man from Killyleagh is realistic enough to admit that he'll never overtake goalkeeping great Pat Jennings, but other legendary figures are on his mind.

Jennings won 119 caps and was rightly rewarded for such an astonishing feat by Uefa at Windsor Park on Friday.

Healy is now on 88 after starting against Serbia that evening. That ties him in third place in the all-time list with midfield marvel Sammy McIlroy, but he will go ahead of his first international manager tomorrow when he plays in Estonia.

Then that Rolls-Royce of a player Mal Donaghy, who played 91 times, will be in his sights.

It will be a remarkable achievement for Healy to pass the pair of

them, because before the 32-year-old started totting up the caps, the striker with the most was Gerry Armstrong on 63!

Add in his goals record, which stands at a sensational 35 — 22 better than the previous best even though he hasn't netted in three years — and you start to appreciate what Healy has delivered for the Northern Ireland cause.

He'd love to make it 100 appearances, but in the autumn of his international career, the Rangers ace is well aware that Northern Ireland might just need to reach the Euro 2012 finals in order for him to become a centurion.

To that end Healy will be doing all he can to end his barren spell in front of goal tomorrow night.

He certainly has good memories of Tallinn from his last visit here in 2004. Then he thumped home a brilliant goal to seal a 1-0 triumph over Estonia in a friendly.

There were no points at stake, but plenty of pride because that was Northern Ireland's first victory in almost three years and gave the team belief that more celebrated successes could be achieved.

Now Healy needs to strike again to keep the European Championships hopes alive.

In the past two games he has worked tirelessly, but hasn't had many breaks in front of goal.

There's a feeling in the Northern Ireland camp though that if he gets a decent opportunity in Le Coq Arena, he'll put it away.

Healy has always played better in tandem with a big man and was isolated far too much against Serbia with Chris Brunt in a withdrawn role behind him.

Worthington should give his record goalscorer more support, be that partnering him with Warren Feeney or Josh McQuoid in attack, or ensuring that the likes of Brunt or winger Niall McGinn are always close to Healy when the ball is played towards him.

Be more positive and Healy, in turn, may earn us a much needed positive result.

Belfast Telegraph


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