Belfast Telegraph

It’s time for David Healy to deliver for Northern Ireland (and against Italy would be nice)

By Stuart McKinley

September 7 2005, September 6 2006, October 15 2008.

All three memorable nights during David Healy’s international career.

Neither he nor anyone else who was inside Windsor Park will ever forget Healy’s winner against England five years ago.

And his hat-trick against Spain almost exactly 12 months later is one that very much sticks in the memory.

The latter date, almost two years ago, is one that Healy would probably prefer not to be brought up.

Healy won his 50th cap in August 2006 and for more than a year everything he touched turned to gold. He scored an amazing 14 goals in 13 games — no other player that has played for Northern Ireland has managed that many in their entire international career.

Realistically he was never going to repeat those amazing goalscoring feats, which also included another famous brace against Sweden.

Now, though, after the feast has come a famine and David Healy’s name hasn’t been on the scoresheet since a 4-1 win at home to San Marino, two years ago next week.

He’s been the man to deliver on the big stage before though and with Italy coming to Windsor Park tonight, the opportunity is there for the Killyleagh man to write more history for himself.

Given the fact that he loves nothing more than scoring for his country, as well as proving his doubters wrong — yes, despite scoring 35 times in 80 internationals he still has them — it wouldn’t be a surprise if Healy notches another famous Windsor Park winner tonight.

And manager Nigel Worthington has spotted more of a spark to Healy than at any time since he last found the net in a green shirt.

“David Healy has had a lean time, which all strikers do,” said Worthington.

“We don’t have a wealth of strikers who are scoring regularly at the top end of the game.

“I have been working with David and I can tell you that he can still finish.

“It’s really about confidence and self belief and a month ago and this week I see a difference in David compared to the last two years. I mean in sharpness, brightness in himself and around goal.

“He looks as if he’s ready to sniff some things out, like he did two-and-a-half years ago.

“He’s got my full backing.”

Kyle Lafferty, who could partner Healy tonight, is enjoying a goal glut at Rangers. He has hit four goals in recent matches — including a League Cup hat-trick.

And his form has come at a perfect time.

“It’s good to have something different with Kyle. We know what he’s all about,” said Worthington.

One man in the Northern Ireland squad knows more about Healy than most. Captain Aaron Hughes has been a team-mate since they were kids at Lisburn Youth and he knows the goals will return.

“That campaign that David had was unbelievable; he broke the European Championship scoring record,” said Hughes.

“If you think about all of the qualifying campaigns that have gone before, the players that have played in those, he did something that no-one else has done and that was special.

“For us and for him it would be great if he got some more goals.”

Belfast Telegraph


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