Football-mad pupils of Derryhale Primary School had their very own team talk ahead of today (Saturday’s) Northern Ireland match, when the squad’s part-time doctor called in to meet them this week.
Ian Ferguson, a past pupil of the rural school, paid a visit to the enthusiastic supporters during a trip home.
He was also guest speaker at the Clounagh JHS prize night, of which he is a past pupil.
Ian, who works in Cardiff as a GP, was called in to help the medical team at Northern Ireland’s first match against Poland in France, joining another doctor and up to four physiotherapists on the sidelines.
The 30-year-old is also team doctor for the Northern Ireland under-19 squad, a part-time post he has held for the past four years.
It is a career that certainly impressed the Derryhale pupils, who were dressed for the occasion in their green and white football tops.
Harry Willis (7) and brother Louis (10), Tommy McCallen (11), Ross Moffett (11) and William Cairns (11) are all members of the school football team with the Willis brothers also playing for Portadown Youth FC and the others for Loughgall Youth FC.
The boys, who were more than happy to talk football with Ian, give their verdicts on Northern Ireland’s performance so far. with the young pundits describing the team as “brilliant against Ukraine” and praising Michael McGovern’s performance against Germany.
Ian applauded the fans, calling them “a real credit to the country”.
The pupils will, of course, be cheering on the ‘Green and White Army’ at Saturday’s match when Northern Ireland play Wales.
And it will definitely be a game of two halves for Ian and his Welsh fiancee Carys Jenkins, with both supporting their respective countries.
Said Ian, “We’re used to it with the rugby. We can’t avoid it!”
The pair met at medical college in Cardiff and Carys, who works as a radiologist at a hospital in the city, accompanied Ian to Derryhale PS.
Both have had sporting success in their own rights with Ian playing hockey for Wales Under 21s (he has a Welsh grandfather) and Carys playing netball for Wales.
Ian, whose dad Martin used to run Watson’s Bar, now Sally McNally’s, also had time for a quick catch-up with principal Joan McMenemy, school cook Gail Leckey and teacher Manda McCallen, who had just begun her areer at Derryhale when Ian was in P7 and taught him science.
Ian’s biggest match has yet to come, however - when he weds Carys later this year.