Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland have answered critics, says David Healy

By Graham Luney

David Healy was back on the big stage for Northern Ireland last night and he was happy to prove a few doubters wrong.

Northern Ireland weren’t expected to make a flying start in Euro 2012 qualifying Group C but Slovenia were stunned 1-0 in their own backyard.

The atmosphere was hostile but the men in green knocked back wave after wave of attacks and Corry Evans lived the dream with a goal just three minutes into his competitive debut.

Healy had to leave the pitch with cramp just before Evans enjoyed his fairytale moment but the Killyleagh man played his part in frustrating their formidable hosts.

“That was a fantastic result,” said Healy. “A lot of people have made a big deal about our away form and results and I think we answered a lot of that tonight.

“What a performance, a clean sheet and 1-0 victory in a very tough place to get a result.

“Slovenia are on a high after just being to the World Cup but we managed to surprise them.

“We can take a lot of positives from it and be thankful we have enjoyed a little luck away from home.

“Yes, fortune was on our side but we were always in the game. Yes we soaked up a lot of pressure but you have to do that here.

“Look at the first 45 minutes when we were right in the game. I thought we were the better side here last time round but we have got our revenge now.”

It was another unfortgettable night for Craig Cathcart who made his senior international debut — and played at left-back for the first time — when he was drafted into the starting line-up to replace the injured Jonny Evans.

Cathcart, who supplied the cross for the winner, said: “I was done a few times by their players, especially when I got tired but overall the lads covered me well and we defended well as a team.

“The goal was the first time I got over the half-way line! I cut it back and crossed it into a dangerous area so it was nice to see Corry poke it in.

“We spoke about wanting to start well and perhaps get a bit of revenge on Slovenia.

“This gives us great heart and the clean sheet has to give us confidence.

“I only found out this morning that I would be starting but once I got into the pace of the game I did ok. I got a few important nicks of the ball in but there were many of us who threw our bodies in the way.

“It was that sort of performance and we expected that.”

Another debutant, Johnny Gorman, who came on for Chris Brunt near the end, said: “It’s a great start to the campaign and a big step up for me but I’m delighted.”

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