Paddy McNair’s parents a lucky charm as he scores first international goal
The 24-year-old sealed a 1-0 win for Northern Ireland against Belarus.
Paddy McNair plans on inviting his parents on more Northern Ireland trips after giving his mother an early birthday present with his first international goal on Tuesday night.
Claire and Alan had made the trip to Borisov to watch their 24-year-old son in action for his country, and saw him score the 85th-minute winner which gave Northern Ireland a 1-0 victory over Belarus.
“It was mad,” McNair said. “I’ve always wanted to score for Northern Ireland so it was an incredible feeling.
“It was also lovely to score in front of my mum and dad. It’s also my mum’s birthday tomorrow so it was really nice and an early birthday present for her.
“They don’t get to many away games so I’ll have to get them to come to more in the future.”
Northern Ireland finished the game the stronger of the two teams, but even Michael O’Neill admitted he feared victory was beyond them as time ticked down.
But with five minutes left, Jordan Jones fed McNair on the left and he raced towards goal, skipping over a challenge from Sergei Kislyak and driving the ball under goalkeeper Aleksandr Gutor.
“I think I was due one,” said McNair, who earned his 29th cap. “I got a bit of stick for missing one in Estonia so it was good to get on the score-sheet and what a time to get it so late on.
“I don’t know what went through my head when the ball hit the back of the net – it’s a bit of a blur.”
The victory gives Northern Ireland a maximum 12 points from four games, with the last three wins all coming with goals scored inside the last 10 minutes.
That statistic is even more impressive given both Tuesday’s match and the 2-1 win over Estonia in Tallinn on Saturday were played in hot and humid conditions.
“I think the fitness amongst the lads is great and that showed, particularly in that heat,” McNair said.
“It was tough going but our fitness told towards the end and it was nice to get a win.”
Northern Ireland remain top of the group, and are crucially nine points ahead of Holland.
Ronald Koeman’s team have two games in hand but the pressure will be on for them to make up ground quickly, not an easy task given their next qualifier is away to Germany in September.
“To be where we are halfway through the campaign is unbelievable and it definitely puts the pressure on Germany and Holland to keep winning games,” McNair said.
“They still have to come to Belfast and they know they’ll have to beat us when the time comes.
“Being top of the group sounds nice and we’ll enjoy it, but we know there’s still a lot of work to do and our focus will soon turn to the games in September.”