Goal against Germany was my best moment in football: O'Boyle
Geroge O'Boyle remembers the moment as if it were yesterday. It was his one and only goal for Northern Ireland against a world class Germany team who the following month would go on to win Euro '96 at Wembley.
Shankill Road man O'Boyle was 28 at the time. Now 49 and running an oven cleaning business in Belfast, the ex-Linfield and St Johnstone striker can't wait to see how the modern day Northern Ireland match up against another star-studded German outfit at Windsor Park tonight.
O'Boyle is full of praise for his old team-mate Michael O'Neill who, after a testing start as an international boss, has worked wonders with the nation's football team, leading them to last year's European Championship finals and to the verge of the World Cup play-offs.
"I've known Michael a long time and he is a very intelligent man," says O'Boyle.
"We went to Manchester City on trial as schoolboys, I played against him when he was at Coleraine and I was with Linfield and we ended up playing together for St Johnstone and Northern Ireland.
"When he was playing he was taking university courses. You knew if he was going into management he would not leave a stone unturned and that's how it has turned out. He has done a fantastic job for Northern Ireland, especially because it was so tough when he took over.
"Michael has turned things around and everyone deserves credit for having patience during that first campaign when things were tough.
"The players bought into what he wanted and his vision and they are getting their rewards now. Michael himself deserves credit for sticking it out because it would have been easy for him to say it wasn't working in those early days. Now the team keep taking your breath away.
"It would be unbelievable if the boys could reach the World Cup. To get back to back qualifications for major tournaments would be some achievement. The players get better with every game. They are a joy to watch and a credit to the whole country."
Bar Germany, they have beaten everyone else in their World Cup qualifying group, but victory or even a draw against Joachim Low's men would be the best result of the campaign.
In 1996, Germany, then managed by Berti Vogts, used Northern Ireland as a training camp ahead of the European Championships hosted in England.In a friendly at Windsor they drew 1-1. It was an eventful evening with Jurgen Klinsmann and Andreas Moller missing first half penalties before substitute O'Boyle stunned the visitors with a 76th minute goal, only for the classy Mehmet Scholl to equalise 60 seconds later.
"I spent most of my time on the bench when I joined up with Northern Ireland but I was still delighted every time I got the call because it is such an honour to represent your country, and to be involved against that Germany side was incredible," recalls O'Boyle.
"I remember Germany had missed two penalties and it was looking like we might get a result. I was delighted for the team but I was starting to worry that because it was so tight changes may not be made.
"Then I was given my chance and not long after a corner came in and it missed everyone on the near post. I had managed to get free and it was a typical finish of mine inside the six yard box.
"It was the best moment I had with Northern Ireland. I'd scored many a time at Windsor for Linfield so it was an amazing feeling to do it there for Northern Ireland.
"When I got on I was determined to use the minutes I had as much as I could and was hoping something would drop for me and lucky enough it did.
"They equalised pretty quickly so I didn't have much time for my goal to sink in, but thankfully we held on for a 1-1 draw. Had they gone on to win I suppose my moment and my goal may have got lost so I'm forever grateful that we drew and the goal meant something.
"I know it was a friendly but to score in a game against Germany and not lose was pretty special. It was a really classy German side that went on to win the Euros, and to score my only international goal against them still means a lot.
"Hopefully the luck that we had that night will be around for the boys this time and hopefully someone will be fortunate like I was to score against the Germans and help us get a good result."
O'Boyle, now co-manager with Colin McIlwaine at Lisburn Distillery, was impressed with the new Windsor Park when he visited it for the first time earlier this season when the Whites played Linfield.
Distillery were due to train tonight when the Northern Ireland game was on but have switched times so that everyone can see the Windsor Park encounter.
Classic meetings with Germany
NORTHERN IRELAND 3 WEST GERMANY 4 - October 26, 1960: The late great Billy McAdams was on top form in this game, one of his most memorable performances for his country, as he scored a hat-trick against the Germans at Windsor Park. Albert Brulls opened the scoring after just seven minutes for the visitors before McAdams netted his first in the 21st minute. The Bolton Wanderers man doubled his tally in the 51st minute, but Uwe Seeler equalised two minutes later with Gert Dorfel grabbing a double to ensure the Germans of victory. But McAdams completed his historic night by scoring in the final minute to go home with the match ball in a thrilling 4-3 loss.
NORTHERN IRELAND 1 WEST GERMANY 0 - November 17, 1982: The first of two famous wins against the mighty West Germans, who at the time had just finished runners-up to Italy at the 1982 World Cup in Spain. Ian Stewart bagged the only goal of the game in the 18th minute in front of a capacity Windsor Park crowd of 15,000 as Billy Bingham’s heroic squad shocked the entire footballing world with a stunning victory.
WEST GERMANY 0 NORTHERN IRELAND 1 - November 16, 1983: Almost exactly a year later they did it again, in the same qualifying campaign, only this time in Hamburg. Norman Whiteside this time made the difference, scoring in the 50th minute, as Northern Ireland did the unthinkable and inflicted a double defeat on their opponents. Unfortunately these two wins weren’t enough to see Northern Ireland qualify for Euro ‘84 — in those days only one team progressed from each group and they missed out on goal difference to the Germans.
NORTHERN IRELAND 1 GERMANY 3 - August 20, 1997: The one that got away, perhaps. Northern Ireland led this game just before the hour mark thanks to Michael Hughes’ strike, and needed to hold out to end Germany’s incredible away record in World Cup qualifying. But Germany manager Berti Vogts threw on experienced striker Oliver Bierhoff in response and the replacement paid him back handsomely, scoring a six-minute hat-trick (73rd, 78th, 79th) to turn the game around and send the Germans away from Windsor Park happy.
GERMANY 1 NORTHERN IRELAND 0 - June 21, 2016: A memorable day for the Green and White Army in Paris, even if the result didn’t match it, as Michael McGovern put in the performance of his life to give Northern Ireland a very respectable 1-0 loss in their final Euro 2016 group game. Striker Mario Gomez’s low finish on the half hour mark was the difference between the two teams as Germany cruised to victory, but that didn’t stop the fans from partying long into the night, earning the respect of not just the impressed German squad, but the entire European footballing community.