Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland Euro 2016 hero Michael O'Neill receives MBE at Buckingham Palace

History-making football manager Michael O'Neill has received his MBE at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

O'Neill - who managed the national team to its first ever European Championship in the summer - was awarded the honour for services to football and the community.

Capped 31 times for his country, O'Neill led Northern Ireland to this summer's Euro 2016 tournament in France where they reached the knockout stages before going out to Wales in the last 16.

It was Northern Ireland's first appearance at a major tournament in 30 years.

O'Neill travelled to London to receive the honour on Thursday.

"It is wonderful, and totally unexpected," the 47-year-old said when it was announced he was to receive the honour.

"I suppose in many ways I am getting rewarded for what the team and the Irish FA have achieved over the past year, not only at the Euros, but also the past two or three years with the completion of the stadium.

"It is recognition of all that, and I am the fortunate person who gets to pick up this award.

"My family are obviously very proud. My oldest daughter actually thought it was a prank when the letter came to the house. But we are hugely proud, and my family back in Northern Ireland are delighted. It probably hasn't really sank in yet, but any recognition is wonderful and it is a proud day for me and my family.

"It is nice receiving coaching awards, or managerial awards, but this is different."

Northern Ireland football has enjoyed a meteoric rise during O'Neill's time at the helm, progressing from a world ranking of 129th in 2012 to a record-high 25th back in June.

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