'It won't sink in for 30 years' - goalscorer Niall McGinn reflects on NI's Euro 2016 win over Ukraine

McGinn celebrates after scoring in Northern Ireland's historic 2-0 win over Ukraine at Euro 2016
McGinn celebrates his goal against Ukraine at the Euro 2016 finals in France

"The memories still put a smile on your face all day."

Niall McGinn did not need any reminding of the significance of the date when he woke on Tuesday morning.

As will no doubt be the case for almost every Northern Ireland fan, the Aberdeen winger's phone was busy with messages, pictures and videos looking back to 16 June 2016, when Michael O'Neill's men secured a famous 2-0 win over Ukraine at the Euros in Lyon.

McGinn, of course, came off the bench to score the second goal deep into injury-time, adding to Gareth McAuley's earlier header and sealing his country's first win at a major finals in 34 years.

The now 32-year-old said he will never tire of talking about the occasion, but still believes it could be many more years before the significance of it sinks in.

Niall McGinn's goal in Northern Ireland's win over Ukraine from every angle

"It's a hugely special memory which will live with me for the rest of my life - it will never get old," reflected McGinn, who recently returned to training with Scottish Premiership club Aberdeen.

"As great as it felt at the time and now when looking back, I've always believed it is probably something that might not fully sink in for another 30 or 40 years, maybe when I'm meeting up with old team-mates for gala dinners.

"We really enjoyed the moment at the time, of course, but it can be difficult for players to really make the most of it because we are straight back to our training base to prepare for the next game.

"But I was just so pleased for the fans. They had followed us all around the world without much joy, so it was great to give him that historic win."

The only one who wanted Magennis to cross it

Niall McGinn
Josh Magennis and McGinn combined for NI's second goal against Ukraine

Having lost to Poland in the opening game four days previously, Northern Ireland went on to qualify from the knock-out stages after a 1-0 defeat by Germany in the final group game, before losing 1-0 to Wales in the last 16.

McGinn came on as a second-half substitute against Ukraine, with Northern Ireland 1-0 up after McAuley powered home a header at the back post from an Oliver Norwood free-kick.

With the game deep into added time, it looked like that goal would be the winner for Michael O'Neill's men when fellow substitute Josh Magennis was played in down NI's right wing by skipper Steven Davis.

"I think I was the only person in the stadium wanting Josh to cross the ball, because it was the 95th minute and everyone wanted him to run it into the corner," continued McGinn.

Euro 2016: Gareth McAuley's Northern Ireland goal from every angle

"Thankfully, though, he got round the defender and cut it back well. I was about to hit it until I got a call from Stuart Dallas so I left it for him, who caught his shot well.

"My natural instinct saw me following it in and when it fell to me from the keeper's save, I was just concentrating on getting a good connection on the ball."

And what about the feeling when the ball hit the back of the net?

"The best I've had in football. It was emotional because so many things went through my head, from family and friends, clubs I used to play for and even my Aberdeen team-mates watching back in Scotland.

"I don't think I'll ever beat that feeling. I had always wanted to score at Windsor Park and was lucky to do that, but scoring at a major tournament is the pinnacle."

Back to where it began with Dungannon Zoom call

Niall McGinn
Part of the artwork of the NI squad which manager Michael O'Neill had commissioned for the squad

Having enjoyed a successful full-time football career at clubs including Celtic, Brentford and current side Aberdeen, McGinn took his first steps in football in the Irish League with Dungannon Swifts.

Given they are one of the clubs that will have flashed through his mind when he scored that goal in France, it is fitting that on Tuesday night he will join a Zoom call with a host of young footballers from Dungannon United.

"It is just a coincidence that the Zoom call was arranged for the anniversary of the win over Ukraine, but I'm sure it will come up in conversation," said McGinn, who just on Monday received a special print of the NI squad that the now departed O'Neill had specially commissioned. .

"I've done a lot of Zoom calls during lockdown and this one will be with Under-15 and Under-16 players, as well as my old coaches Joe McAree and Dixie Robinson.

"Dungannon have been great to me over the years and it will be great to get the chance to speak with the young players and share my experiences. It's important not to forget your roots."

McGinn most certainly has not forgotten those roots. And there is no chance of him forgetting that goal in Lyon, either.

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