‘Northern Ireland football on the up’ says Scottish YouTuber Blair McNally

Blair McNally aims to shine a light on football on the island of Ireland

Blair McNally YouTube thumbnail with the Irish Cup final in the background
The Scottish content creator witnessed an Irish Cup final for the ages (Blair McNally)

FOOTBALL in Northern Ireland produced a showpiece of a cup final last weekend when Cliftonville beat Linfield 3-1 to claim their first Irish Cup for 45 years.

That showpiece has highlighted how far the Irish league has come in the last decade or so.

Linfield, whilst still remaining in and amongst the frontrunners for most competitions aren’t showing quite as much of a monopoly over the game, losing out on the league and Irish Cup this year to Larne and Cliftonville respectively, although they did win the league cup, beating Portadown in the final.

The Irish Cup final was a significant moment for soccer north of the border and capped off a season that has set a new high standard.

Few think more so than Blair McNally, a football content creator from Scotland with Irish roots, who has heard dreary tales about Irish football on both sides of the border from his mother, who is originally from Derry.

The Glasgow-born journalist, who is currently studying Sports Journalism at the University of West Scotland, spends his days off going to lesser-known clubs around the UK and Ireland and telling obscure soccer stories on his social media and YouTube channels.

Blair McNally capturing footage of the Cliftonville fans at Windsor Park during the Irish Cup final
The Scottish content creator was pitch-side for Cliftonville's historic win over Linfield in the Irish Cup final

His YouTube channel has gained over 27,000 subscribers and he has fans from all over the UK who watch him tell stories about the clubs that you never hear about.

“I knew it was going to be a big occasion; just the history and the occasion that it was, we all know what was involved,” said McNally, who in his video billed the Irish Cup final between the Blues and Reds as ‘Celtic v Rangers on drugs’.

“It was one I didn’t want to miss, I’m so glad I didn’t. Apart from missing the second goal, I think everything went to plan.”

When Ronan Hale cut in on the edge of the Linfield area and stunned the Blues crowd, that was one of the defining moments and proved to be the winning goal between the two bitter Belfast rivals.

McNally said: “As soon as extra time came, I had loads of followers at the game that were shouting me and stuff so I always try to go over and talk to them all.

“I made sure I got photos with everybody and I saw that my phone was gonna run out of charge, so I was going to get my charger out my bag and next thing you know, I’m underneath the stand and the stand starts rocking and the rest was history.”

The significance of the occasion in terms of what it means for the NI football scene was not lost on the Scot, who showed a real enthusiasm for the Irish game when talking to the Irish News.

“This is a game that Irish football needed, it was desperate for it, it had waited for so long, 90 years is a long wait and for two of probably Northern Ireland’s two fiercest rivals

Over the last month, McNally has taken more of an interest in the Northern Irish Football League, coming over to watch four games in different competitions across the six counties.

“My mother’s from Derry, that’s why I’m so educated on League of Ireland and NIFL as well so I’ve obviously got a big affiliation here,” said McNally, who supports Partick Thistle, based in Glasgow.

“My wee cousin keeps me up to date, he goes and watches Institute at Brandywell and obviously big Brandon [Daiu] at Portadown, there’s loads of stories on social media but I follow all of the pages and I’ve got a good interest so I’m kind of kept up to date with it all.

“I think there’s an awful lot of work to be done to get it to where it deserves to be because to me, I think the Northern Irish Football League is a bit behind everywhere else but there is that culture and there is that evidence there that it can get to where it wants to be and Saturday was just credit to that.

“Saturday showed that if we work hard enough and if everybody comes together that we can get it to where we want it.

“All you need to do is look at the League of Ireland 10 years ago and look at it now.”