Belfast Telegraph

Worthy's Cup joy

By Stuart McKinley

Northern Ireland boss Nigel Worthington has welcomed the setting-up of a " Celtic Cup" competition involving his own country plus international neighbours the Republic of Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

With his manager's contract now up for renewal after the conclusion of the Euro 2008 qualifying series, it remains to be seen whether Worthington leads Northern Ireland into the tournament when it commences in 2009, but he believes players and fans alike will relish the matches.

"I made my debut for Northern Ireland against Wales in our last ever Home Championship match, which was the only time I played against Wales," he said.

"I played against Scotland once in friendly and against the Republic of Ireland and England a few times in qualifying matches.

"They were all effectively local derbies and that gave the games a bit of added spice and playing those teams regularly again is a good thing.

"The countries who are in it want to be in it and it is good for the fans and good financially as well.

"As far as players are concerned it is a chance to earn more caps and play against your rivals, so I think they will all want to be involved."

The initial agreement is for a three-tournament trial and they will be held in 2009, 2011 and 2013, with each team playing three games per year.

IFA chief executive Howard Wells last night revealed that England turned down the chance to make it a five-team tournament and give it even more fan appeal.

" We kept England involved in those conversations and they had every opportunity, if they had wanted, to participate," he said.

" It was not on their agenda at the time and as a consequence we moved on.

"That is not a criticism of England, just the reality of not being able to fit those games into their calendar."

The respective associations are currently working to finalise commercial arrangements and fixture dates.

Wells added: "The reality at our level in terms of qualifying for major tournaments is that it is always going to be difficult.

"Therefore, we wanted to look at what options there might be after that to create better competition."

Belfast Telegraph


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