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Euro 2016: Northern Ireland fans delirious after historic win puts O'Neill's boys in dreamland

A day of triumph and tragedy as determined side secures 2-0 win over Ukraine but supporter dies after collapsing while watching game from stands

By Adrian Rutherford

It was a glory night for Northern Ireland's Euro 2016 campaign as they overcame Ukraine 2-0 in an emphatic victory to set up a chance to progress in their first major tournament for 34 years.

Fans were delirious with joy when the final whistle blew after six minutes of added time, and Lyon was set to host a party to end all parties as the legions of the Green And White Army hit the streets singing and dancing.

It was Northern Ireland's first major tournament win since the heady days when they beat hosts Spain in the 1982 World Cup.

The victory means Northern Ireland will at very least place third in the group and could still go through to the next stage, but a draw or better in the next game against Germany would guarantee a spot in the next round.

The joy of the night was overshadowed by tragedy after a fan collapsed and died while watching the team's legendary win.

Robert Rainey took ill in the stands at the Stade de Lyon yesterday.

Mr Rainey, who was said to be 62 and from Belfast, collapsed around 50 minutes into the match, at around the time the first goal was scored.

The tragedy came minutes after fans paid an emotional tribute to Darren Rodgers.

The 24-year-old suffered a fatal fall in Nice during the early hours of Monday morning, where he had been watching the match against Poland.

The latest death overshadowed Northern Ireland's 2-0 victory here yesterday, their first tournament win since the 1982 World Cup. Last night, several of the players spoke of their shock over the terrible tragedy.

Captain Steven Davis said: "We heard about the tragedy in the dressing room.

"It is terrible news and we'd like to send our condolences and deepest sympathies to his family and friends."

Striker Kyle Lafferty also expressed his condolences to Mr Rainey's family.

He said: "We've just heard the news and we can't believe it that another of our fans - our brothers - has died.

"We would just like to say we are truly sorry and pay our respects to him. Our sympathies go to his family."

The tragedy unfolded five minutes into the second half of yesterday's game, at about 6pm UK time.

Eyewitnesses said Mr Rainey collapsed and stopped breathing. Efforts were made to try and resuscitate the victim inside the stadium, but he was later pronounced dead.

Last night, devastated supporters placed flags and scarves at the spot where Mr Rainey collapsed as a tribute.

PSNI Superintendent Nigel Goddard, who is in France to act as a liaison with French police, said that the man's family had been contacted.

"Our thoughts are tragically with a second family this week mourning the devastating loss of their loved one," he added.

"We understand the man aged in his 60s collapsed during the game and was attended to by emergency services in the Stade de Lyon.

"It is extremely sad that this is the second death of a Northern Ireland fan in France during the Euro 2016 games.

"We have been liaising with French Authorities and local PSNI officers have been in touch with the man's family in Belfast."

The Irish Football Association said it was "deeply saddened" to learn of the tragedy.

IFA chief executive Patrick Nelson added: "The fan passed away as he was watching the game in the stadium.

"This puts any result of a football match into perspective. The thoughts of the board, management, players and staff are with his family and friends at this sad time."

A spokesman for the Foreign Office said: "We are providing support to the family of a British national who has sadly died in France. He died of natural causes."

Yesterday, fans clapped during the 24th minute of the game to remember Darren Rodgers. Darren, from the Meadowvale area of Ballymena, fell eight metres from the city's promenade on to a rocky beach at Castel Plage in Nice. Police said it was a tragic accident and not related to any disorder.

Northern Ireland's players wore black armbands at yesterday's game in tribute.

Supporters also applauded and chanted: "There's only one Darren Rodgers".

Northern Ireland beat Ukraine 2-0 to give themselves real hope of progressing through to the last-16 stage.

They are guaranteed to finish at least third in the group after Poland and Germany played out a scoreless draw in the other match last night.

A win against the Germans, who are the reigning world champions, on Tuesday would guarantee Northern Ireland's place in the knockout stages.

 

In lyon

Belfast Telegraph