EURO 2016: Steven Davis dedicates Euro qualification to his late mother

Northern Ireland's Steven Davis celebrates scoring against Greece
Northern Ireland's Steven Davis celebrates scoring against Greece

Northern Ireland goal hero Steven Davis on Thursday night dedicated his two goals to his late mother Laura, who passed away in 2008.

The 30 year old Southamption midfielder rocked the new look Windsor Park to its foundations by leading Michael O’Neill’s braves to the European Championship finals for the first time in the country’s history following a memorial 3-1 victory over Greece.

Big striker Josh Magennis marked his first international start scoring for the boys in green in the middle of a Davis double whammy, sending the international arena into a frenzy.

Still clearly in an emotional state the skipper, who led by example all night, stated: “Regardless of who got the goals, the important thing was winning the game and getting over the line in terms of qualifying for the 2016 Euro finals in France.

“Credit to everyone of the players and everyone in the squad. It was a great team effort over the entire campaign.

“The goals meant a lot to me personally. Obviously, my mum passed away 2008. She was my biggest fan. She loved coming to Windsor to see me play.

“Those two goals were for her.”

Davis hailed the contribution of Magennis, who was deputising for the suspended Kyle Lafferty.

“Josh led the line superbly well,” added Davis. “He held up the ball well and caused their two centre-backs problems all night. It was great to see him getting a goal.

“But the quality of our squad has certainly gone up a notch. The players that stepped in were fantastic. Michael (O’Neill) could have a few tough decisions to make for the next game in Finland.”

Davis described the achievement of qualifying for the Euros as the best moment of his career

“It’s got to be right up there.” he added. “It’s really difficult to qualify for any tournament these days. . . we haven’t managed it as a country for 30 years.

“At this moment in time it’s difficult to sum up and put into words.

“It’s a huge achievement, not only in football terms, but for the country in general.”

Giant centre back Gareth McAuley was almost lost for words at the final whistle. After completing a second lap of honour in front of a packed stadium, he said: “It’s been a long long journey for me in my career. The chance to play in something as special as a European Championships is going to be the icing on the cake.

“As a squad, we all had belief it could happen. Every time you put on the shirt you believe you can do something extra special to give back to that crowd out there,” he added.

“I’ve got people who have come from England and they’ve never seen an atmosphere like that. It’s incredible.

“We’ve had one-off games when we’ve got results, but to qualify for this tournament, we’ve don’t it in a bit of style. That’s a massive credit to Michael (O’Neill).

“When we go out there we’ve got a plan, and we believe in that plan and we carry it out. It’s working so far and long may it continue.”

McAuley believes manager Michael O’Neill can become one of the country’s all time greats, adding: “What Michael does, away from when we’re with him is incredible. The detail he puts into it, what he gives us, he just gets it spot on.

“He went through a rough time in the World Cup qualification but we’ve scored goals in this tournament that were lacking in the last campaign -- it’s all come together. We’ve had a little bit of luck at times, but you deserve that after all the years of grafting.”