Northern Ireland at Euro 2016: Bad dance music, bold calls and a wedding

By Chris BruntNorthern Ireland midfielder
Northern Ireland v Germany
Venue: Parc des Princes, Paris Date: 21 June
Coverage: Live on BBC TV One, BBC 5 Live, the BBC Sport website and app.

West Brom midfielder Chris Brunt has won 48 caps for Northern Ireland and played in eight of their 10 qualifying games for Euro 2016, but missed out on their squad for the finals through injury after rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in March. He is in France as a pundit for BBC Sport.

When Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill got back to our dressing room after we had beaten Ukraine he went round every player to speak to them personally and congratulate them.

When he had delivered his piece to the whole squad, our goalkeeper Michael McGovern put some music on. I cannot remember exactly what it was, but it was very loud and quite bad, old-school dance music. I don't think you would hear it in too many other places these days, let's put it that way.

Quite a few of the lads were dead on their feet after the effort they had put in during the game but the place was absolutely buzzing and it was a very different scene to the aftermath of our opening defeat by Poland.

I was so happy for them. We have worked so hard to get to France and a lot of the lads have been part of the squad for a long time and never experienced anything like this before.

NI goalkeeper Michael McGovern and defender Aaron Hughes celebrate their win over Ukraine
NI goalkeeper Michael McGovern and defender Aaron Hughes throw some shapes at the final whistle

I was especially pleased for Aaron Hughes, who is a mate of mine and a fantastic lad who has been there for everyone throughout the whole qualifying campaign and has probably not played as much as he liked.

He got on the field against Ukraine and did a great job at right-back, so a special mention to him, although the whole team did brilliantly.

No-one expected Michael to make five changes

I have been around our base in Lyon all week and I could see that things were being mixed about on the training ground but I certainly don't think anyone expected Michael to make five changes for the Ukraine game.

It was a big call because it involved some big players - striker Kyle Lafferty and midfielder Chris Baird, for example, have been mainstays in our team for the last couple of seasons.

But he is the manager and it is his job to make those big decisions. I am delighted for everyone that they paid off.

Once everybody knew who was playing and who wasn't, they really started to focus. I could sense on the bus on the way to the game and in the dressing room beforehand that the lads were determined to show what a good team we actually are and they didn't half do that.

I said after the Poland game that we wanted to prove something because that was not a reflection of what we can do as a team - and you could tell things were going to be different against Ukraine from the first minute because we were a lot more like our usual selves.

Up front, in particular, we looked a lot more dangerous than in the first match. We had to be.

With Conor Washington's pace up top and Jamie Ward and Stuart Dallas so direct down the wings we caused them problems every time we got the ball. The stats will tell you that they had more of the ball - 64% possession in the first half and 75% after the break - but we were a lot more effective with it when we got it.

Our set-pieces were back to their normal standard too, as shown by our first goal. Ollie Norwood was disappointed with his deliveries against Poland but he was right on the money to set up Gareth McAuley.

I was right in line with Gareth's header when it went in and it was a fantastic moment for the lads and obviously the fans, too. I was in the stands again and I am finding watching a lot worse for my nerves than playing is, but I enjoyed celebrating that.

'We can take something out of the Germany game too'

Getting a second goal in stoppage time was a big bonus for us, even though we were all screaming at Josh Magennis to take it into the corner to use up time. I still cannot believe he crossed instead.

Michael O'Neill was especially pleased about it afterwards because, if we finish third in Group C, then our goal difference might come into deciding whether we are one of the four third-placed teams who go through.

He and the players will watch the Ukraine game back and then start preparing for our final group game, against Germany in Paris on Tuesday.

Northern Ireland's remaining Euro 2016 Group C game
FixtureVenueDate & timeBBC coverage
v GermanyParis21 June, 17:00BBC TV, BBC Radio 5 live
Live text commentary on every game on the BBC Sport website

They are the world champions but if we can play anywhere near how we did on Thursday then we are capable of taking something out of that game too.

I will be back in France and working for the BBC again at that match at Parc des Princes and I cannot wait but before then I have another big day.

My youngest brother Aaron is getting married on Saturday, so instead of heading back to the training base after the Ukraine game, I went to Lyon airport.

I am at West Brom on Friday for a bit of a catch-up and to do some more rehab on my knee, then I am flying to Belfast on Friday night.

I am back in Paris on Monday evening so it is a busy time for me but I am loving every moment of it - and hopefully there's even more to come.

Chris Brunt was speaking to BBC Sport's Chris Bevan.

Brunt has been training with the Northern Ireland squad at Parc de Montchervet in St Georges de Reneins
Brunt (third from left) has been training with the Northern Ireland squad at Parc de Montchervet in St Georges de Reneins

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