Northern Ireland has qualified for its first ever European Championship after beating Greece 3-1 on Thursday at Windsor Park in Belfast.
The team was without leading goalscorer Kyle Lafferty, but still managed to get a comfortable win over the last-placed Greeks after two goals by Steven Davies and one from Josh Magennis. Magennis came in the replace Lafferty in the lineup, and the 25-year-old forward has an interesting backstory. Just six years ago, Magennis switched from goalkeeper to forward, and on Thursday he scored his first international goal in his 15th cap.
Manager Michael O’Neill was delighted with guiding his team to their first ever European Championship competition.
“Now we can look forward to the tournament,” O’Neill told The Guardian. “We’re not just going to go there and enjoy it. We’re going to go and try to make an impact. I genuinely believe, fitness and availability willing, we can go there with a real optimism.”
An excited Magennis praised his manager after the game as the forward had gotten some reassuring words before the game.
“I have dreamt about this,” Magennis said “I have a true sense of happiness right now. People might say it’s cheesy but to score a goal to take your country to a major finals for the first time is unbelievable. Michael told me: ‘You don’t have to be a world beater, you just do what you can’.”
O’Neill will now take his team to Finland for the final game of the qualifications.
“We saw all the good things in Northern Ireland,” O’Neill said. “The bond between crowd and team is really strong. It’s just an amazing feeling, what we have to look forward to.
“I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved tonight, the highest point of my career, certainly, either as a player or a manager. But it’s for other people to write, I’m not big on that. I don’t have a memorabilia room in my house.
“This is a special moment. I’m lucky my wife and kids were here because they’ve not been since the Norway game, my first match.”