Enshrined forever in the history of Northern Irish international football was Alan McDonald’s legendary television interview following the World Cup qualifier against England on 13th November 1985. After the game – which ended scoreless and guaranteed Northern Ireland a place at the Mexico 1986 finals – McDonald passed comment on the feelings of a segment of the England support that their own team hadn’t really been trying.
"There were 13 heroes out there…everyone was brilliant …and anyone who said that’s a fix can come and see me and I’ll tell them it wasn’t a fix ...so we bloody earned that ...and anybody says different is a joke."
On being further questioned whether he had enjoyed the historic night itself at Wembley despite just having asked it outside en masse for a fight, McDonald replied with the equally legendary and monosyllabic “No” before underscoring his part in nearly allowing Gary Lineker to score. He then went on to praise the players for getting behind him in turn, the fact that the team deserved to get to the World Cup and how the biggest ambition of his life was to play in front of the crowd at Windsor Park Belfast.
Alan McDonald of Queens Park Rangers and Northern Ireland died suddenly at the weekend at the age of only 48 – the tributes across the internet to him today are both fulsome and empassioned about the loss of the man and the player alike. One public tribute today noted how during the tense and now infamous Northern Ireland v Republic of Ireland qualifier for the USA World Cup in November 1993 at Windsor Park that McDonald was amongst the first players to congratulate the opposition on their qualification following the 1-1 draw.
That 1985 interview was less than two minutes long but will forever stand as an embodiment of total professional commitment - from a player appearing in only the second of his fifty two international appearances - and burning individual pride for one’s country during a period of two decades when both parts of Ireland played to incredulous levels of footballing excellence above their global standing.
Northern Ireland’s six year long international football light flight under Billy Bingham would not last long beyond those very Mexico finals in which McDonald played in all three games but those words at Wembley Stadium will never be forgotten from yet another citizen of Belfast who during our troubled times showed the world a face of utter decency, talent and raw character.