Friday 19 January 2018

Former Cardiff goalkeeper ensures North complete Euro road to glory

N Ireland 3 Greece 1

Steve Davis (L) of Northern Ireland celebrates after scoring
Steve Davis (L) of Northern Ireland celebrates after scoring
Gareth McAuley of Northern Ireland celebrates clinching qualification Newsdesk Newsdesk

Northern Ireland are heading to their first ever European Championship after captain Steven Davis and Josh Magennis kicked off celebrations 30 years in the making at Windsor Park

The nation has not been seen a major tournament since the 1986 World Cup but that will all change in France next summer after an unforgettable victory in Belfast.

Michael O'Neill's men knew three points would be enough to make history and, when Davis stabbed home Stuart Dallas' 35th-minute cross, the promised land moved a mighty step closer.

But this was not a night when the Green and White Army would squeak home - this was a party.

Kilmarnock forward Magennis - a converted goalkeeper who had never scored an international goal before - made it two with a deft header and the inspirational Davis nodded in his second just before the hour mark.

The Southampton midfielder was just a year old when Billy Bingham's boys went to Mexico and, having described this match as the biggest of his career at his pre-game press conference, he was a fitting figurehead.

So too Magennis, whose low profile and unique back story epitomise the spirit in this squad.

He would not have been on the pitch had Kyle Lafferty not been suspended nor if he had made it with the gloves at Cardiff as a teenager.

Northern Ireland were without not just Lafferty but also the banned Chris Baird and Conor McLaughlin and the injured Jonny Evans and Aaron Hughes.

Their resources were tested to the limit, but the likes of Magennis, Paddy McNair and Corry Evans were not found wanting on a famous night in Belfast.

Irish Independent

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