Euro 2016 has put Northern Ireland back on the football map, which is no mean feat considering we lost three out of four matches.
Thanks to the spirit of our players, the passion of our fans and the unwavering optimism of our wee country, the GAWA were the talk of the tournament. Rival fans have branded Northern Ireland as The People’s Champions, though unfortunately this won’t have any effect on the FIFA rankings.
Here’s eight lasting memories of our Euro 2016 adventure…
We’ve always known NI fans are among the best in the world, but this tournament proved to the rest of the world just how amazing we are. While England fans and Russia fans did not to endear themselves to world audiences, our fans put Northern Ireland on the map for all the right reasons. We might only have won a solitary game but the support from the Green and White Army was worth its weight in gold.
This video taken during the Germany game gives us goosebumps every time…
Man On Fire
‘Will Grigg’s On Fire’ became the anthem for the GAWA at home and in France and even Eric Cantona joined in the fun.
It also gave rise to a few pranks including this one at border control in Dover…
— Phil Arlow (@arlow1980) June 26, 2016
And this one which is our personal favourite…
Will Grigg is sure to go down in football history as the most sung about player at a tournament (who never actually spent a minute on the pitch!)
When Oliver Norwood floated the ball into the box against Ukraine there was only one man who was going to get his head on the end of it.
Gareth McAuley soared like Superman to score the goal that prompted delirium at home and in Lyon. The sheet rain made the celebrations even more spectacular.
A New Hero Is Born
Goalkeeper Michael McGovern’s epic performance in keeping the score down against the Germans (and getting us through to the last 16) prompting this amendment to his Wikipedia page…
Two Northern Ireland fans lost their lives while following their team in France.
During the Ukraine game, Northern Ireland fans paid their respect to 24-year-old Darren Rodgers with a minute’s applause during the 24th minute. Republic of Ireland fans paid the same tribute during their next game.
A minutes applause also took place during Northern Ireland’s game against Germany for 64-year-old Robert ‘Archie’ Rainey who died during the Ukraine match.
In both cases the families of the devoted Northern Ireland fans said they were touched by the respect paid to their loved ones.
The official Fanzone in the Titanic Quarter and then Boucher Road Playing Fields proved to be a mecca for those Northern Ireland fans who didn’t make it to France. Despite the adverse weather and adverse results the fanzones were party central for the GAWA in Belfast. The pics below from PSNI Air Support shows just how many people packed into the Titanic Fanzone for the Germany game.
In terms of results on the pitch it mightn’t have been the best for Northern Ireland, but we always looks on the bright side of life in our wee country.
Here’s a few examples of our trademark banter during the tournament…
We were also pleasantly surprised with BBC NI’s series of funnies during the tournament. This particular one was our favourite…
You’ll be able to show your appreciation to Michael O’Neill and his team at a homecoming event at the Fanzone at Titanic Belfast on Monday (June 27).
Gates open at 5pm and the event is expected to run until 8.30pm. Tickets are available via ticketmaster.ie
There will be a £2 admin charge per ticket, £1 of which will go the official charity of both the Irish FA and Fanzone, which is NI Cancer Fund for Children.