Windsor faithful dare to dream of historic victory

Northern Ireland players during Sunday's training session at Windsor Park ahead of Monday night's Euro 2016 qualifier against Hungary. Photo: William Cherry/PressEye
Northern Ireland players during Sunday's training session at Windsor Park ahead of Monday night's Euro 2016 qualifier against Hungary. Photo: William Cherry/PressEye

Excitement amongst football fans could reach fever pitch on Monday night with Northern Ireland only one win away from qualifying for a first major finals in three decades.

The Hungarian visitors to Windsor Park will be grateful that the raucous Kop Stand crowd has been temporarily displaced, but the Green and White Army will make their presence felt on a night that could go down in football history.

Michael O’Neill’s men sit proudly on top of Euro 2016 qualifying Group F after seven games – ahead of Romania and Hungary – and are all but certain of at least a play-off place.

However, should Northern Ireland take all three points on Monday, ‘our wee country’ will qualify for the finals in France having been seeded fifth from the six teams in their group.

Following a 3-1 victory away to the Faroe Islands on Friday, O’Neill said the squad is in a buoyant mood – and the fans are daring to dream.

“Obviously we’re confident, we’ve played seven games, won five and drawn one. We’ve got all the characteristics to see this game through and see this campaign through.

“Our objective is to finish the job but if we don’t do that here we’ll have other opportunities; our destiny remains very much in our hands,” he said.

Gary McAllister, chairman of the Amalgamation of Official Northern Ireland Supporters Clubs, said the fans will play their part by getting behind the team – but concedes it could be a nerve-wracking evening.

“Let’s positive about Monday night, and let’s be positive that we can do it at Windsor Park. The capacity in the stadium will be the same as it was for the Romania game and the atmosphere then was quite good and there was a great buzz.”

Mr McAllister added: “Everyone who has the best interests of the Northern Ireland team at heart is really up for the game and delighted to see the them doing so well. Everyone is up for it, so let’s hope they can take that one last step and get the three points to get over the line.”