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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

Published 17/06/2016

Michael O’Neill celebrates after the second goal scored by Niall McGinn
Michael O’Neill celebrates after the second goal scored by Niall McGinn
Gareth McAuley salutes the fans
McGinn celebrates his goal
Fans enjoy the moment
Fans enjoy the moment
Goalkeeper Michael McGovern joins in
Gareth McAuley is mobbed by team-mates after his goal against Ukraine in Lyon

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.

Northern Ireland fans celebrate after the final whistle of the UEFA Euro 2016, Group C match at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais, Lyon. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Jonathan Brady/PA Wire.
Northern Ireland fans celebrate after the final whistle of the UEFA Euro 2016, Group C match at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais, Lyon. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Jonathan Brady/PA Wire.
Jimmy Nesbitt mingles among fans in Lyon. Credit: Green and White Army Caravan in France
Northern Ireland's Niall McGinn celebrates scoring his side's second goal of the game during the UEFA Euro 2016, Group C match at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais, Lyon. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday June 16, 2016. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Nick Potts/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only. Book and magazine sales permitted providing not solely devoted to any one team/player/match. No commercial use. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 for further information.
Northern Ireland's Jonny Evans celebrates with his daughter Lottie after the final whistle of the UEFA Euro 2016, Group C match at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais, Lyon. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday June 16, 2016. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only. Book and magazine sales permitted providing not solely devoted to any one team/player/match. No commercial use. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 for further information.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th June 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland fans during Thursdays second Euro 2016 game against Ukraine at the Stade de Lyon, France.
Northern Ireland fans show support for their team in the stands during the UEFA Euro 2016, Group C match at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais, Lyon. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday June 16, 2016. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Nick Potts/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only. Book and magazine sales permitted providing not solely devoted to any one team/player/match. No commercial use. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 for further information.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th June 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland fans during Thursdays second Euro 2016 game against Ukraine at the Stade de Lyon, France.
Politician Kate Hoey in the stands during the UEFA Euro 2016, Group C match at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais, Lyon. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday June 16, 2016. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only. Book and magazine sales permitted providing not solely devoted to any one team/player/match. No commercial use. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 for further information.
@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 16th June 2016 Northern Ireland Executive Ministers Paul Givan, left, and Simon Hamilton, right, join fans during Thursday's Group C Euro 2016between Northern Ireland and Ukraine at the Stade de Lyon in France. Picture by Brian Little / Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th June 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland fans during Thursdays second Euro 2016 game against Ukraine at the Stade de Lyon, France.
Northern Ireland fans show their support at the official fan zone at The Titanic Belfast, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date Thursday June 16, 2016. See PA story SPORT Euro 2016 Belfast. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Northern Ireland fans show their support at the official fan zone at The Titanic Belfast, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date Thursday June 16, 2016. See PA story SPORT Euro 2016 Belfast. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

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.

 

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