After a thirty-year wait for success, it still hadn’t quite sunk in on Friday that Northern Ireland were bound for the Euro finals with a game to spare.
The late night revellers were gone from Bradbury Place, but for those sipping their pints in the nearby South Belfast Northern Ireland Supporters Club another party was being planned ‘a la France.’
Life-long and well-travelled fan Michael Caldwell has witnessed the great highs and terrible lows of the last four decades – and rates Thursday night’s heroics and Windsor Park atmosphere as one of the great occasions.
“Then England game ten years ago still stands out but last night was right up there,” he said.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet what they have achieved. It’s hard to believe that two years ago the same team was beaten by Luxembourg.”
Alan Martin said he was “immensely proud” of Michael O’Neill’s men.
“I’m 62 so I can remember the last time we qualified for a World Cup, and that fantastic atmosphere is back again. I wish they had shown the game on the city hall big screen so more people could have shared the excitement.”
Harold Alexander said the big screen idea was a good one, but added: “Even better if they had shown the game on terrestrial TV” rather than satellite.
“It was easy against Greece in the end which is funny because we always seem to make it hard for ourselves”.
Dessie McFadden added: “I don’t think too many teams will want to play against us in France because there is a great spirit in the Northern Ireland squad and they have that belief that they can beat anyone, but it’s great because there’s no real pressure on them in the finals.”