Euro 2016: Rory McIlroy hails Northern Ireland feat

Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis celebrates scoring against Greece.
Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis celebrates scoring against Greece.

Messages of congratulations for Northern Ireland were pouring in on Thursday night after Michael O’Neill’s side qualified for Euro 2016.

Inspirational captain Steven Davis scored twice, with Josh Magennis also on target as Northern Ireland beat Greece 3-1 in Belfast to get their nation to their first major tournament since the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.

Holywood-born four-time major-winning golfer Rory McIlroy, who was at the match with IBF superbantamweight champion Carl Frampton, tweeted: “Anyone for France next year? #EURO 2016” alongside a picture of his view at Windsor Park.

He added: “Unbelievable result for the republic too! Great night for the island of Ireland, north and south. Hopefully see both teams in France next yr”

Frampton had a little earlier tweeted a picture of the pair smiling towards the end of the match, with the words: “Bonjour lads #GAWA”

Former England football captains Rio Ferdinand and Alan Shearer were also quick to praise O’Neill’s men.

Ferdinand tweeted: “Congrats to Northern Ireland on qualifying for the Euros! Great achievement & special mention to my man Ollie Norwood... #NewEra”

Shearer - also referencing Scotland, whose dreams of making next summer’s finals in France were ended by a stoppage-time Poland equaliser at Hampden - posted: “Wow Scotland. Last kick of the game! 🙈 Congrats to Northern Ireland & ROI. Great results.”

Suspended pair Kyle Lafferty and Chris Baird, beers in hand, expressed their joy at the result soon after full-time on Sky Sports News.

Lafferty, whose seven goals played a major part in Northern Ireland’s successful campaign, said: “It’s hard to believe. We were set up to do a task tonight and the lads were superb. Obviously Davo to get two goals - absolutely brilliant - he deserved them for his overall performances in the whole campaign. And Josh was given the opportunity to show Michael what he can do and he grabbed a goal.”

Baird added: “I’ve been through a lot of bad times with the country and so have the fans. This one is for everyone involved. We absolutely deserve it. We’be been absolutely fantastic from start to finish and we’re going to celebrate really well tonight!”

Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted: “Huge congratulations to Northern Ireland on qualifying for the European Championships for the first time.”

Referencing the Republic of Ireland’s 1-0 victory over world champions Germany as well, Sinn Fein deputy first minister Martin McGuinness tweeted: “Incredible night for Irish football, congrats Martin and Michael O’Neill (managers) & both teams. Beating the world champions in Dublin so amazing.”