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Northern Ireland football fans celebrate Euro 2016 finals place

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image captionManager Michael O'Neill was hoisted in the air by his overjoyed team

Northern Ireland football fans have been celebrating in the streets of Belfast after the team qualified for its first major tournament in 30 years.

Manager Michael O'Neill was hoisted in the air by his overjoyed team after their 3-1 victory over Greece, securing their place at the Euro 2016 finals.

Leading politicians and sporting stars from Northern Ireland tweeted messages of congratulations on the achievement.

Martin O'Neill's team is now guaranteed at least a play-off place in the Euro 2016 finals, but will qualify automatically if they defeat Poland on Sunday.

media captionNorthern Ireland football manager Michael O'Neill has described the team's achievement in qualifying for the Euro 2016 finals as "fantastic".

Hundreds of fans gathered outside pubs near Belfast's Shaftesbury Square to celebrate Northern Ireland's victory.

Peter Robinson, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) said it was a "tremendous result and achievement".

"Huge congratulations to Michael O'Neill and team. Great night for Northern Ireland."

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill

"This campaign we got the results we deserved, where possibly in the last campaign two or three results went against us that shouldn't have done.

"Once you get confidence and belief in football anything's possible and when you have the spirit that this group of footballers have - they believe they're capable of anything.

"It's a pleasure for me to manage them and be a part of this whole experience with them.

"We'll try and bring everyone back down to earth and win the game on Sunday and hopefully we win the group.

"For a lot of these players, they've put a lot of miles on the clock playing for Northern Ireland, so I'm delighted for them that they're finally getting the chance to experience what qualification feels like."

Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness tweeted it was an "incredible night for Irish football".

media captionNorthern Ireland fans react to their team's qualification for the Euro 2016 finals after victory over Greece.

The Sinn Féin MLA congratulated the managers of both the Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland teams on their victories.

Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted: "Huge congrats to Northern Ireland on qualifying for the European Championships for the first time."

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt, who was at the game, tweeted: "[Josh] Magennis - best home debut since Ian Stewart v West Germany Nov 1982."

'Great night'

Golfer Rory McIlroy attended the Windsor Park match with Belfast's world champion boxer Carl Frampton.

McIlroy tweeted: "Great night for the island of Ireland, north and south. Hopefully see both teams in France next year."

image captionNorthern Ireland fans have been celebrating in the streets of Belfast

Frampton, the IBF world super bantamweight champion, said the result had given Northern Ireland a "real lift" and described the achievement as an "unbelievable" experience.

"I knew last night they were going to get the job done," he told BBC Radio Ulster's Good Morning Ulster.

"It is a once-in-a-lifetime thing, I was born in 1987, it was 1986 the last time Northern Ireland played at a major tournament so I wasn't even born.

"It is the first time I have seen anything like this and it is unbelievable, I will never forget it.

"It is a great achievement."

Amazing feeling

Snow Patrol singer Gary Lightbody tweeted: "What a 1st goal to score for your country by Josh Magennis. And two great goals from our fearless leader Steven Davis! Dreamland! GAWA!"

image copyrightPA
image captionWorld champion boxer Carl Frampton gets a selfie taken with Northern Ireland international Stuart Dallas following the win against Greece

It is the first time Northern Ireland has qualified for the finals of a major football tournament since the 1986 World Cup.

Northern Ireland captain Davis was just one year old the last time Northern Ireland competed at a major finals - at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.

"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."

Related Topics

  • Belfast

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