Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Viewpoint: Welcome home, boys

Defeated, but not vanquished. Down, but certainly not out.

Yes, we failed to qualify for Euro 2008. But the boys can make the journey home with heads held high.

Despite the disasters of Iceland (twice) and Latvia, they refused to lie down. They rose to the challenge of Denmark and battled right to the end against mighty Spain.

So what of the future? At this point in time, it is fair to say we are all winners.

Unlike his England and Republic of Ireland counterparts, Nigel Worthington will rightly be offered a new contract.

The fans, of course, have done us proud, playing their part, along with the IFA, in making Northern Ireland games a positive and inclusive experience for sports fans from both sides of the community.

David Healy and his team-mates have transformed themselves into sporting inspirations who have built an incredible legacy for future teams.

Northern Ireland is changing - politically, economically and socially. Sport has a key place in our new-found civic pride, and this Northern Ireland team has played an important psychological role in our ongoing transformation.

They deserve their place in the history books.