Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Ulstermen on Way to Euros after Davis Bags a Double; NORTHERN IRELAND 3 GREECE 1

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Ulstermen on Way to Euros after Davis Bags a Double; NORTHERN IRELAND 3 GREECE 1

Article excerpt

NORTHERN Ireland are heading to their first 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.

However, 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.

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 pro-file 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 Magennis, Paddy McNair and Corry Evans were not found wanting.

Their nerveless showing was met with unfettered delight by 11,700 frenzied fans - a number including local golf hero Rory McIlroy and IBF superbantamweight champion Carl Frampton.

The febrile fans soon had something significant to celebrate - a Faroe Islands goal 11,000 miles away in Budapest.

Regardless of the result in Belfast, anything less than a Hungary win would be enough for O'Neill's men.

In the end, Hungary's comeback win was an irrelevance.

The visitors were being penned back by an industrious front three of Magennis, Dallas and Ward in the first half but it took a moment of vision from Evans to crack things open. …

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