Northern Ireland: Michael O'Neill hails Euro 2016 qualification

Michael O'Neill says Northern Ireland qualification 'phenomenal'

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill says the success of qualifying for Euro 2016 proves his team are capable of achieving even more.

O'Neill's side booked their place at a major tournament for the first time since 1986 with a 3-1 win over Greece in Belfast on Thursday.

"The players were outstanding. Right through the team, they were magnificent," he said.

Steven Davis hails 'incredible' Northern Ireland qualification

"This shows the potential of this team and of football in Northern Ireland."

He added on Sky Sports: "How have we done it? I'm not really sure. The players deserve the ultimate credit.

"We have confidence and belief which comes from winning games. I'm proud to stand here as their manager. The preparations for France start now."

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'A dream come true'

Steven Davis celebrates scoring
Southampton midfielder Steven Davis: "It's a dream come true."

Steven Davis scored twice and striker Josh Magennis once as Northern Ireland qualified for their first European Championship, with Christos Aravidis adding a late consolation at Windsor Park.

Watch our fans' guide to Euro 2016

Captain Davis was just one year old the last time Northern Ireland competed at a major finals - at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico - when Billy Bingham's side included Pat Jennings, Mal Donaghy and Norman Whiteside.

"It's a dream come true. We couldn't have asked for it to go any better," the 30-year-old Southampton midfielder said. "It's a huge achievement for the squad and the country and there was no better place to do it in front of our fans who have pushed us all along."

Rory Mcilroy tweet
World number three golfer Rory McIlroy was at Windsor Park and tweeted his reaction to the match

'It's hard to believe'

Suspended defender Chris Baird said: "I've been through a lot of bad times with the country and so have the fans. This one is for everyone involved.

"We've been absolutely fantastic from start to finish and we're going to celebrate really well tonight."

Goalscorer Magennis hailed the spirit in the team, saying: "We may not have the best quality but we never give up. Once you have that fight you can be a formidable team."

Northern Ireland's starting XI v Greece
Michael McGovern (age 31) - Hamilton Academical, Scottish Premiership
Gareth McAuley (age 35) - West Bromwich Albion, Premier League
Steven Davis (age 30) - Southampton, Premier League
Chris Brunt (age 30) - West Bromwich Albion, Premier League
Corry Evans (age 25) - Blackburn Rovers, Championship
Stuart Dallas (age 24) - Leeds United, Championship
Oliver Norwood (age 24) - Reading, Championship
Paddy McNair (age 20) - Manchester United, Premier League
Jamie Ward (age 29) - Nottingham Forest, Championship
Craig Cathcart (age 26) - Watford, Premier League
Josh Magennis (age 25) - Kilmarnock, Scottish Premiership

Suspended striker Kyle Lafferty, whose seven goals played a major part in the campaign to reach next summer's tournament in France, said: "It's hard to believe. We were set up to do a task tonight and the lads were superb.

"Davis got two goals and was absolutely brilliant - he deserved them for his overall performances in the whole campaign."

Steven Davis celebrates scoring
Steven Davis has scored three goals in a week having gone a year without one
Northern Ireland players celebrate
Northern Ireland top their group with 20 points from nine games
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill is thrown in to the air by players
Michael O'Neill took over as Northern Ireland boss in 2011

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