All posts by Simon McIntyre

Lafferty double sees off Finland

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Northern Ireland have taken a massive step towards qualification for Euro 2016 after a 2-1 win over Finland at Windsor Park.

Kyle Lafferty’s first-half double was enough for the hosts as they held on to record their fourth win in five games in Group F.

Michael O’Neill praised the mentality of the players in recording another victory.

O’Neill said: “I’m delighted. I had drilled into the boys that we needed to stay focused throughout the game.

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Michael O’Neill’s fortunes have turned around in this campaign

“Finland came with a plan but yet again we stuck to our game and got a huge win here in front of our supporters.”

The away side started positively, playing possession-based football in defence and midfield but with little end product.

This style of play almost landed Finland in trouble as a simple square ball landed the Finnish defence in trouble and sent Jamie Ward through on goal. The Derby County winger fluffed his lines and sent his shot wide of the target.

It was a let-off for the Finnish but it gave Northern Ireland the impetus that this game was there for the taking.

As we’ve so often seen in the last few games, Lafferty was to be the hero yet again in front of goal for Northern Ireland.

His opener came in the 33rd minute. An Ollie Norwood free-kick was cleared to Niall McGinn and his flick-on header was met by a sweet volley from Lafferty. The sweeping finish found the bottom corner and Windsor Park erupted.

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The Windsor Park crowd was at their brilliant best

Five minutes later, Northern Ireland made it two. Some fantastic work down the right by the impressive Conor McLaughlin led to a cross and the imperious Lafferty headed home, bringing his tally for the campaign to five goals.

The game was transformed, as Finland looked stunned by the quickfire double. At half time, the mood in the stands was that of jubilation. Surely Northern Ireland couldn’t throw this away?

Captain Steven Davis was replaced through injury at half-time and the Finnish controlled the opening stages of the second half, wrestling back control in the midfield.

Again, they struggled to create chances but with time against them, the away side threw everything at Northern Ireland.

Lafferty heads home his second
Kyle Lafferty heads home his second

Their late flurry was to be rewarded as Berat Sadik turned home in injury time, despite suspicions of offside.

It made for a nervous last two minutes as Finland committed men forward in search of a draw. But Northern Ireland held on with the Kop at their backs.

Table-topping Romania visit Windsor on June 13, a win there and we can surely start dusting off the French phrase books for next summer.

Kendrick escapes the cocoon on iconic Butterfly

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Lamar’s sophomore effort is a phenomenon

It’s been three years since Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city sent shockwaves around hip-hop bringing the Compton-based rapper to the mainstream.

We’ve anxiously heard of a drastically different sound and direction from his debut record.

But finally, Lamar’s second studio album To Pimp A Butterfly has been released and you can file it straight into “instant classic”.

The production of the album is crisp and moves away from the West Coast hip-hop-heavy good kid, m.A.A.d city. This was made clear from the range of producers which includes soul legend Ron Isley and jazz electric bass supremo Thundercat alongside rap icons Dr. Dre and Pharrell.

The cover art depicts a mob of black people who appear to have taken over the White House while the Speaker of the House of Congress lies dead.

It sets a tone for what this album promotes. In Lamar’s own words: “We need to find black leaders to stand up and represent. And that could be any man from the streets.”

From the first song “Wesley’s Theory”, the album adopts a rhythmic fusion of jazz, funk and hip-hop all set behind Lamar’s smooth rapping style.

He follows that song with the annoyingly catchy “King Kunta” – the third single to be released from the album.

“These Walls” and “Institutionalised” both feature the fantastic Anna Wise. Wise featured on Kendrick’s previous album and she provides a beautiful contrast on Butterfly with her soulful voice.

Kendrick delves into depression on “u”. It’s a harrowing song relating to family problems he had when he mother was unwell and his sister had a miscarriage.

It’s hard to listen to as the emotional pressures of trying to remain a strong family man becomes too much and he reverts to alcohol.

“The Blacker The Berry” is an angst-filled anthem, aimed at uniting black people to unite and stand up for their rights, contrary to the divisive nature in which Kendrick believes they currently live. The lyrics are piercing and provide a lot of thought.

It resonates strongly with the anti-police riots seen in Ferguson and most recently Baltimore, both following the killing of young black males by law enforcement.

He finishes with “Mortal Man”, finishing the poem he’s told throughout Butterfly, before asking hip-hop’s greatest ever influence on his views on the current state of black culture.

As the immortal Tupac Shakur responds, the listener is astounded. The track effectively holds a conversation between Kendrick and Tupac, using clips of interviews prior to his death in 1996. The message is as applicable then as it is today.

It’s a landmark moment and one which marks the passing of the torch to Kendrick as rap’s next great leader.