EURO 2016 QUALIFIERS: Delighted Craig Cathcart savours first international goal

Craig Cathcart celebrates his goal against Finland, ensuring that NI drew, and ended their Euro 2016 campaign top of their group
Craig Cathcart celebrates his goal against Finland, ensuring that NI drew, and ended their Euro 2016 campaign top of their group

Craig Cathcart described opening his account for Northern Ireland as the “cherry on top” of an unforgettable campaign.

The Watford defender was on target to put put Michael O’Neill’s charges in front at the Olympic Stadium in last night’s 1-1 draw.

It was a classy moment in an otherwise pretty flat match, but ensured Northern Ireland top their Euro group, achieving something no Pot Five team has ever done before.

It was also a great night for Cathcart’s father, who stuck a fiver on his son to hit first, at a very generous 23/1.

“It wasn’t the best of games but it was nice to get my first goal and the point to get us to the top of the group at the end of it. We didn’t play well but it shows the spirit of the group to grind through it and get a result,” he said.

“I saw a bit of space at the near post, saw Niall had put a good ball in and got on the end of it, I didn’t really think too much about it and I’m not one to get excited about scoring, but I’ll reflect on it later, I know it’s an important goal.

“It’s the cherry on top, yeah. I had come off the bench before but I got two starts at the end of the campaign and to have played in such a big game against Greece is great. It’s great to finally play my part and I look forward to helping the lads in the tournament.”

The Premier League ace is cruising at club level, with eight top-flight appearances since celebrating promotion last year, and is holding out for a place in France.

“I had a bit of a taste of the Premier League with Blackpool before and every player wants to play there, there have been tough times for me in the Championship but I definitely think I deserve the chance to play at the highest level again,” he added.

“Centre-back has been a competitive position ever since I came into the Northern Ireland squad, we’ve always had good defenders at a high level so it’s always been tough to get a start, but a few of the lads are getting older and hopefully I will have my time in years to come.”