Local fans have been praising Paddy McNair following his man of the match performance against Belarus last night.
The former Ballyclare Colts player left it late to seal all three points in a must win game for Michael O’Neill’s side.
McNair’s strike in the dying minutes saw the current Northern Ireland crop create history by winning the first four games of a qualifying campaign, building on the success of wins over Estonia and Belarus in March and Estonia on Saturday.
Newtownabbey Northern Ireland Supporters’ Club member, Angus Henry was at both games this week.
Singing the praises of Paddy and former Ballyclare Comrades player, Michael Smith, the Ballyclare resident said: “I thought both guys were outstanding last night.
“People back home wouldn’t realise what the heat and humidity was like out there. All the fans were shattered with it, so big credit to the players for their performances.
“As a Ballyclare man I am obviously so, so proud of Paddy who has had a difficult season at Middlesborogh, but to come up with a performance and goal like that is just fantastic.
“Michael Smith has come into the team and provided two solid displays, especially last night. From Ballyclare to Borisov what a story.”
Angus added: “We got two great home wins and came out to both away matches and played through extremely difficult conditions to record two more historic wins with battling displays.
“We sit proudly at the top of the group and have given the two great nations Germany and the Netherlands something to think about. Wee Northern Ireland will be nobody’s pushovers.”
Fellow passionate Newtownabbey Northern Ireland fan, Joel Adair tweeted: “Paddy McNair from Ballyclare! Worth every mile for nights like these.”
Cheering on the team, East Antrim UUP MLA John Stewart took to social media following the goal. He said: “Yaassssssssss get in!!!! Paddy McNair get in son!!!! Talk about leaving it late.”
Paddy’s old school, Ballyclare Secondary School also paid tribute following his goal scoring exploits.
A spokesperson for the Doagh Road School said: ““As a past pupil of our school we are immensely proud of Paddy. His performances in the last two qualifiers against Estonia and Belarus further illustrate the quality and ability that he possesses.
“It is fantastic to see Paddy representing both Ballyclare and Northern Ireland on the international stage. It was also great to see past pupils of our school in the travelling Green and White Army in both Tallinn and Borisov, supporting him and the rest of the Northern Ireland team.
“There is no doubt that he is a fantastic role model for the pupils of our school and to all young people in Ballyclare. We wish Paddy well in his pre-season preparation with Middlesbrough and look forward to cheering him on in September at Windsor Park.”
Alongside Paddy and Michael Smith, there was a strong contingent of players from Newtownabbey in last night’s starting 11.
Wishing the local lads well, Greenisland FC tweeted: “Four former Greenisland players in tonight’s starting lineup.
“Best wishes to Corry Evans, Michael Smith, Jonny Evans and Craig Cathcart and to all of the Northern Ireland team.”