Northern Ireland: 2026 Friendlies

An even year brings with it another edition of the UEFA Nations League competition. However, before we get a crack at that we have two international friendlies lined up before the winter football season finishes and the 2026 World Cup starts up.

In the early part of 2026 we found out our fate for the UEFA Nations League. Having won promotion in 2024, we now compete in League B. We are joined in Group 2 by Austria, who were relegated from League A, and Ukraine and Slovenia, having managed to keep their place in B from the last run out.

On Choy and Coyle: Choy Yiu Fai lasted just 6 months with new Glentoran manager Brendan Rodgers before making a £81k switch to FC Porto. Sadly, interest in Stephen Coyle appears to have waned, with even the desperate MLS clubs no longer swarming around the young star. He remains in East Belfast for now.

Friendly v Bosnia & Herzegovina

Sarajevo was once the scene of a pivotal moment in history as the Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination inspired the biggest hit of 2004 – “Take Me Out”. However, this 90 minutes in the Bosnia capital will be very quickly forgotten as another pointless non-competitive outing.

Friendly v Faroe Islands

I’ve always loved the International Friendly. An exciting chance to lock horns in exotic locations with rarely encountered oppositions. Honest!

It was a golden day for Glentoran. Former Glentoran striker Choy scores four with still-Glenman Coyle matching his tally for the day. Also Glentoran, Rory Lafferty took his own international goal count to 3 in 18 caps – not bad for a centre back.

Choy opens the scoring in the sixth minute with a well placed header. Paul Smyth the provider as the ball is returned from a failed corner.

Coyle’s first of the day is a messy affair and it takes several attempts to figure out how he actually manages to get the credit for it.

Choy’s second is all thanks to some dogged work by Paul Smyth on the right wing, his cross finds Coyle who turns it inside to Choy to finish.

Amazingly, Choy has his hattrick wrapped up before the half hour mark. Paul Smyth’s ball in is headed on by Ciaron Brown and Choy pops up in the right place to nod past the flailing goalkeeper.

Stephen Coyle has properly forgotten those two missed penalties now as he converts yet again from the spot. His 20th international goal!

Not to be outdone by Choy, Stephen Coyle completes his own hattrick just 3 minutes after Choy does his own. Suspect goalkeeping, yes, but Barry Lavery’s neat through ball is a thing of beauty as Coyle nets another easy finish.

It’s a long wait until the 52nd minute for our next one. Glentoran winger Jamie Murphy puts the ball on a golden platter for Stephen Coyle’s fourth goal of the day.

23 minutes before time, Choy rounds off the scoring with another well taken header. Not bad for just 5 feet 11 inches! Another superb assist for Stephen Coyle too.

A short update but plenty of goals to squeeze in and a great morale booster ahead of the Nations League later in the year.

As far as World Cup 2026 went – a mammoth 48 team tournament across North America ended with Germany winning their Fifth World Cup. They completed the task over England, on penalties typically, in the final.

Here’s how things stand in our own focus:

David Healy: 95 caps / 36 goals

Stephen Coyle: 27 caps / 22 goals

Choy Yiu Fai: 16 caps / 10 goals

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