Michael O’Neill’s Northern Ireland football heroes have been warmly welcomed at Stormont for a reception to honour the achievement of the team – and fans – at Euro 2016.
Both the players and the magnificent Green and White Army won a legion of new admirers during a largely successful tournament in France.
A 2-0 win over Ukraine highlighted the quality and determination the team, while the high spirits and good humour of the fans – despite narrow defeats to Germany, Poland and Wales – was rewarded with the Medal of the City of Paris.
Welcoming the team, IFA officials and fans’ representatives to Parliament Buildings on Thursday evening, First Minister Arlene Foster said it was a “pleasure and a privilege” to host the event along with sports minister Paul Givan.
“The team have been tremendous ambassadors for our country and have become a symbol for all that is good about Northern Ireland and its people,” she said.
Mrs Foster added: “Qualifying for the last 16 was a magnificent achievement and we all have amazing shared experiences, pride and memories from summer 2016 that will stay with us for a very long time. I salute the professionalism and dedication of Michael and his staff, the team, the camaraderie within the squad and the bond between players and supporters.”
Paul Givan said: “Together, the team and fans have brought credit and honour to our wee country and are to be commended for it. I wish the team every success for the World Cup qualifiers.”