Kate Hoey: What pride in Our Wee Country

Gareth McAuley, above, who with his team mates has done Northern Ireland proud
Gareth McAuley, above, who with his team mates has done Northern Ireland proud

What a perfect finale to Northern Ireland’s Euro qualifiers.

I’ve been to every single match in this championship.

Kate Hoey

Kate Hoey

To qualify so convincingly, at the top of the table, and amid such a fantastic noise from our supporters.

Many of those supporters have followed us when times were bad and we weren’t scoring goals, the media were not interested and we had to shout to say we exist.

To every supporter it is like the icing on the cake to qualify so well.

To see Davis scoring when he has captained us with great dignity is great for him.

I want to pay tribute to the IFA for their faith in Michael O’Neill.

It shows a commendable patience that they stuck with him in the testing times, a loyalty which we don’t see too often in football these days.

Our supporters don’t just chant, they sing. When Windsor Park is complete we can look forward to 18,000 people singing.

Many youngsters will have been watching that match thinking: “I would like to be wearing that green shirt.”

It is a huge boost to the Province.

I am so proud of Our Wee Country.

I was in Mexico when we qualified for the World Cup in 1986 and that was a fantastic atmosphere.

We will have thousands of supporters planning their holidays in France.

It will be a wonderful summer for everyone who cares about football and cares about Northern Ireland.

How many other small countries can see the best golfer in the world and the best boxer in the world chanting and singing?

I’m off to Helsinki where I imagine there will be quite a celebration.

Kate Hoey MP, Ex UK sports minister