Five of the Best | Paddy McCourt’s sensational solo strikes

David Smith
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In the first edition of our new weekly ‘Five of the Best’ series, we revisit five of the best goals scored by Paddy McCourt.

A former Northern Ireland international, McCourt’s playing career saw him represent Shamrock Rovers, Derry City and Finn Harps in the League of Ireland, as well as Rochdale, Celtic, Barsnley, Brighton, Notts County (loan), Luton Town and Glenavon.

The ‘Derry Pelé’ – who finished his career at Finn Harps before taking a coaching job at Derry City – delighted fans everywhere he went with his mazy dribbling and penchant for stunning individual goals, becoming a cult hero at numerous clubs in the process.


#1: Versus Faroe Islands (Windsor Park, 2011)

Arguably the greatest goal ever scored at Windsor Park.

On August 11th, 2011, McCourt marked his first competitive start for Northern Ireland with a stunning brace in the hosts’ routine 4-0 win over the Faroe Islands in Belfast.

McCourt started and finish a superb team move to notch Northern Ireland’s third goal of the match, after goals from Aaron Hughes and Steven Davis had already found the net.

It was his second goal, however, that will go down as one of the greatest ever scored by a Northern Ireland player.

Collecting a Johnny Evans pass on the left flank, just inside the opposition half, McCourt ran at the Faroe Islands’ defence.

McCourt dribbled down the wing, cutting inside past right back Jónas Tór Næs then eluding the lunge of a covering midfielder.

Finding himself on the edge of the box, McCourt feigned a shot, instead dragging the ball past Tór Næs and on to his left foot.

He took a quick look up, before nonchalantly lifting the ball over Faroe Islands goalkeeper Jakup Mikkelsen into the top of the net.

His lob was weighted to perfection, with Mikkelsen merely a couple of feet off his line.

It was vintage McCourt from start to finish; the dribbling, the technique and the composure to finish it all off.

What a way to record Northern Ireland’s 600th international goal.

Brian Kerr, manager of the Faroe Islands at the time, lauded McCourt’s dazzling display.

“Tonight was a good night for him. We couldn’t cope with his skill and technique and it was a brilliant fourth goal.”

Those stunning two goals were the only international goals registered by the “Derry Pele”, and will live long in the memory.

#2: Versus St Mirren ( St Mirren Park, 2009)

“Paddy is as gifted a footballer as I have ever seen.”

Former Celtic manager Gordon Strachan

McCourt scored nine goals across 66 appearances for Celtic.

They tended to be spectacular.

There were several candidates for this list, including fantastic solo efforts for the Bhoys against St. Pauli and St. Johnstone.

However, we have opted for his magical goal against St Mirren in September, 2009, on McCourt’s first Scottish Premier League start.

In the 27th minute, McCourt opened the scoring with a scintillating solo effort in the SPL clash.

Picking up a loose ball in the middle of the pitch, McCourt danced away from a challenge and carried the ball deeper into the hosts’ half.

He slalomed forward – first to the left, then back to the right – skipping past desperate challenges as he reached the edge of the box.

Then came the trademark composure.

McCourt faked a shot, allowing the ball to run to the right of the box, before pushing past a final St Mirren defender and firing a low shot back across goalkeeper Paul Gallacher.

Shaun Maloney doubled Celtic’s lead late on, securing a comfortable 2-0 away win.

#3: Versus Middlesbrough (Oakwell, 2013)

What a way to score your first goal for a club.

Third on our list is McCourt’s outlandish solo effort against Middlesbrough for Barnsley in the Championship in October 2013.

Barnsley would eventually go on to win the game 3-2, but it was McCourt who opened the scoring with an inspirational goal in the 26th minute.

There appeared to be little danger when the Derry native picked up the ball 30 yards from goal.

McCourt played a quick one-two, before strolling past a host of ‘Boro players, wriggling his way into the box before squeezing a tidy left-footed finish into the far bottom corner.

The Barnsley playmaker beat six or seven players from start to finish, illuminating Oakwell with yet another special goal.

He limped off with an injury a few minutes later, but his first goal for the Championship club sent the home side on their way to a 3-2 win.

It’s a goal to be enjoyed again and again.

#4: Versus Brighton (Amex Stadium, 2013)

McCourt’s next entry on this list came just a month after the aforementioned solo strike against Middlesbrough.

Barnsley, languishing at the bottom of the table, picked up a crucial win against Brighton – their first away league victory of the campaign – at the Amex Stadium in December 2013.

In a familiar refrain, it was McCourt who opened the scoring in the match with a wonderful goal.

10 minutes before half time, a loose ball bounced into McCourt’s path just inside the Brighton half.

McCourt showed exemplary close control to shield the ball and pirouette away from two Brighton midfielders.

Driving into the box, McCourth exchanged passes with Marcus Tudgay, before nudging the ball on to his right foot and calmly slotting the ball past Tomasz Kuszczak.

Jacob Mellis doubled the Tykes’ lead, before Matthew Upson’s header halved the deficit.

Another Barnsley win, another unforgettable McCourt goal.

#5: Versus Sligo Rovers (Finn Park, 2017)

A late Rhys McCabe winner gave Sligo Rovers a 2-1 victory over Finn Harps in Ballybofey in September 2017.

Vinny Faherty had given the Bit O’Red the advantage earlier in the match, before McCourt offered a reminder of his mercurial talent with a divine equalizer in the 82nd minute.

The midfieler intercepted a headed Sligo clearance, before chopping the ball past two advancing Sligo players.

He then exhibited impressive power and balance to ghost into the box, evade multiple challenges and poke the ball past Ciaran Gallagher with the outside of his foot.

His remarkable leveller was ultimately in vain, but the former Northern Ireland international gave the home fans something to smile about despite the result.