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Video: Sorry Messi but Blanchflower and McIlroy invented 'two-man penalty'

By Claire McNeilly

It has been hailed as a stroke of genius... Barcelona's eye-popping penalty against Celta Vigo.

The football world was left mesmerised on Sunday when, instead of shooting from 12 yards, Barca superstar Lionel Messi rolled the ball into the path of his team-mate Luis Suarez, who rushed in to finish it off.

Fans of Ajax, Everton and Belgium, however, have been quick to point out that such an audacious manoeuvre has been done before - while Arsenal supporters won't need to be reminded of the spectacularly embarrassing moment when two of their star players made a complete hash of it. But the ultimate bragging rights belong to our wee country because it provided the first recorded exponents of the controversial 'two-man penalty'.

The memorable - yet clearly forgotten by many - moment happened on May 1, 1957, when Northern Ireland captain Danny Blanchflower stunned the Windsor Park faithful by rolling his spot kick into the path of Jimmy McIlroy, who netted against Portugal in a World Cup qualifier.

Harry Gregg, the Northern Ireland goalkeeper that day, said he remembers the stadium - which was heaving with 35,000 fans -being plunged into momentary silence by Blanchflower's outrageous improvisation in the 70th minute of a game our boys ultimately won 3-0.

"Not only had the crowd never seen it before, but neither had the referee," said 83-year old Gregg.

Indeed, the man in black was so mesmerised that he (wrongly) disallowed the effort and ordered it to be retaken in the conventional manner.

Footage of the Blanchflower-McIlroy moment will dismay Belgian football aficionados, who had been hailing their Rik Coppens-Andre Piters effort in a match against Iceland as the first of its kind.

But that World Cup qualifier took place on June 5, 1957 - over a month after our boys had their showboating moment.

Seven years later, Everton striker Mike Trebilcock did something similar against Manchester City after being set up by Johnny Newman.

But until Messi and Suarez struck on Sunday, the most famous examples were from another Barca legend, Johann Cruyff who, as an Ajax player, set up team-mate Jesper Olsen in 1982 - and Arsenal duo Thierry Henry and Robert Pires, who infamously messed up their big opportunity in 2005.

Having already scored from the spot against Manchester City at Highbury, Pires looked certain to double his tally from a similar opportunity. Instead, he attempted to roll the ball into the path of Henry, but scuffed his pass. Who knows what William McCrum - the Co Armagh man who invented the penalty kick back in 1890 - would have made of it all?

The Blanchflower/McIlroy Penalty

Everyone talking about the Messi/Suarez penalty tonight. Some even saying that they have recreated the Cruyff/Olsen penalty. Northern Ireland fans know that it is actually the Blanchflower/McIlroy penalty from 1957 as seen in our film Spirit of '58.

Posted by Clackity Films on Sunday, 14 February 2016

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