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‘I’ve never had a better feeling’ – Taylor, 17, reflects on Northern Ireland debut


His smile was beaming. His happiness was infectious. And yet his calmness was obvious.

Dale Taylor had just become one of Northern Ireland’s youngest-ever players by making his debut at the age of 17 in the 1-0 World Cup qualifier win over Lithuania at Windsor Park.

The Nottingham Forest striker, who is yet to play for the Championship club’s first team, came on as a substitute for Josh Magennis in the 78th minute of a victory that saw Northern Ireland return to third place in their qualifying group.

“I’ve never ever had a better feeling than that – that was a dream come true,” the north Belfast teenager said.

The emotions were honest and raw, but the mannerisms were mature and controlled.

“To be honest, I don’t even know,” he said when asked how it felt making those first few steps on to the Windsor Park pitch and hearing the huge roar of the crowd that greeted his arrival.

“It was unbelievable. I’m lost for words to be honest with you. That’s the first time I’ve ever played in front of that many fans.

“The manager said to just go out and play my own game, work hard for the team and to not be scared to make mistakes.”

Taylor is yet to play for Nottingham Forest’s first team

He wasted no time in getting into the match, either, finding space in the box and, after electing not to shoot, going on a driving run before eventually forcing a corner with a cross.

“I hesitated,” he reflected. “I was going to pull the trigger and have a shot, and I regret that I didn’t now but at least I won a corner for us.

“I did think about shooting and I don’t know why I didn’t, I should have hit it.”

Having had a taste for senior international football, Taylor wants more – and Italy are coming to town.

Roberto Mancini’s European champions travel to Belfast as Group C leaders for their final qualifier on Monday night, but needing a victory to ensure they win the group.

Taylor laughed at the notion of him having watched Italy win the Euros on TV in the summer and thinking he would be playing against them a few months later.

“No, I didn’t think that at all. I didn’t have a clue I would get a call-up to the senior team that soon,” he added.

“Obviously, Italy are an unbelievable side, winning the Euros, and it would be unbelievable to go up against them.”

He’ll have had a ‘tingle down his spine’ – Baraclough

Speaking just before his new striker offered his thoughts, Northern Ireland manager Ian Baraclough gave an insight into his thinking before sending the youngster on.

“It was ‘was I going to put him on, wasn’t I?’ Then I thought ‘why not?’,” he said.

“The way he’s been over the last three to four days has told me he can deal with it. Without putting him in, how are you going to know?”

And what of those chances of a second cap against the Italians?

“He’s got over the first hurdle of making his debut. The roar of the crowd would have given him a tingle down his spine.

“Now he’s got to kick on and take it to the next game. If he gets a chance against Italy, he knows what it’s about under the lights.”

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