McAuley has N. Irish eyes smiling at Euro 2016

Lyon (AFP) – Having scored Northern Ireland’s first goal at a European championships finals, veteran Gareth McAuley said Thursday his side was delighted to prove a few doubters wrong at Euro 2016.

The Northern Irish shocked Ukraine with a 2-0 victory Group C on Thursday thanks to McAuley’s flying header and a late strike from substitute Niall McGinn to keep alive their hopes of reaching the last 16.

“Lots of people said we wouldn’t get a point here and now we’ve got three,” beamed man-of-the-match McAuley.

Northern Ireland had lost their opening group game 1-0 to Poland.

“We produced a great reaction after the Poland game and now we have something to show for it,” he said.

The West Bromwich Albion defender’s goal at a hailstone-battered Stade de Lyon put Ireland on course for their first win at a European championships finals.

The thousands of Northern Irish celebrated with their team after their final whistle and can now dream of trying to topple Germany in their last pool game in Paris on Tuesday to reach the knockout phase.

“These fans were with us no matter what,” said McAuley.

“We’ve got another tough game now against Germany but we’re delighted and hopefully we’ll grow more confident.”

McAuley also wrote himself into the history books.

At 36 years and 194 days, he is the second oldest goalscorer at a Euro finals, after Ivica Vastic, who was two years, 63 days older when he converted a penalty for Austria against Poland at Euro 2008.

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