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Players will be up there with Rory and Carl if they finish job tonight...

By Steven Beacom

Published 07/09/2015

This is a golden period for Northern Ireland sport.

We have the world's number one golfer in Holywood's Rory McIlroy, world boxing champion Carl Frampton from Tigers Bay, numerous Ulstermen ready to play a huge part in Ireland's bid for glory at the Rugby World Cup... and much more besides like young Coleraine rower Joel Cassells, who last week became our latest world champion, and Ballyclare's Jonathan Rea who will soon hold that mantle in motorcycling.

Then there is the Northern Ireland football team who are about to take our wee country's success story to a different level.

Tonight manager Michael O'Neill and his players can reach the European Championship finals for the first time in the nation's history.

A win over Hungary at Windsor Park would do it.

It was back in 1986 that Northern Ireland last qualified for a major championships - the Mexico World Cup - but since then the profile of football has exploded into orbit. It's a whole new ball game now.

Bigger than it's ever been and come next year in France when the finals take place, it will be bigger still.

Due to an incredible transformation in form under the astute O'Neill, players like captain Steven Davis, Gareth McAuley and Kyle Lafferty have given themselves a golden opportunity to be part of it and to become national heroes in the process.

Reach the Euro 2016 finals and these boys will be up there with Rory and Carl in terms of public affection.

And when they get there thousands upon thousands of fans will be with them in France, knowing this may never happen again in their lifetime.

Go on boys, finish the job for yourselves and Northern Ireland.

Belfast Telegraph

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