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Euro 2016: Northern Ireland Pole-axed on Riviera but the dream remains alive

Green day: Carnival atmosphere on streets of Nice as NI fans do country proud despite disappointing loss

By Adrian Rutherford

Published 13/06/2016

Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye
Belfast, UK - February 12 , Pictured is fans reactions during the Northern Ireland fan zone in association with Vauxhall held at the Titanic Slipways as Northern Ireland take on Poland in the Euros on February 12, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye)
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast, UK - February 12 , Pictured is fans reactions during the Northern Ireland fan zone in association with Vauxhall held at the Titanic Slipways as Northern Ireland take on Poland in the Euros on February 12, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye)
Northern Ireland fans look dejected whilst watching the UEFA Euro 2016, Group C match between Northern Ireland and Poland at the Titanic Museum, Belfast.
Fans at Belfast's Titanic Slipways as Northern Ireland concede the goal during Poland's 1-0 victory in the Euros on February 12, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye)
A Northern Ireland supporter looks on during the Euro 2016 group C football match between Poland and Northern Ireland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 12, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Valery HACHEVALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast, UK - February 12 , Pictured is fans reactions during the Northern Ireland fan zone in association with Vauxhall held at the Titanic Slipways as Northern Ireland take on Poland in the Euros on February 12, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye)
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast, UK - February 12 , Pictured is fans reactions during the Northern Ireland fan zone in association with Vauxhall held at the Titanic Slipways as Northern Ireland take on Poland in the Euros on February 12, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye)
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast, UK - February 12 , Pictured is fans reactions during the Northern Ireland fan zone in association with Vauxhall held at the Titanic Slipways as Northern Ireland take on Poland in the Euros on February 12, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye)
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast, UK - February 12 , Pictured is fans reactions during the Northern Ireland fan zone in association with Vauxhall held at the Titanic Slipways as Northern Ireland take on Poland in the Euros on February 12, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye)
Northern Ireland's goalkeeper Michael McGovern looks at the ball after Poland's forward Arkadiusz Milik scored during the Euro 2016 group C football match between Poland and Northern Ireland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 12, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Valery HACHEVALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images
Poland's defender Artur Jedrzejczyk (R) celebrates his team's victory next to Northern Ireland's forward Conor Washington at the end of the Euro 2016 group C football match between Poland and Northern Ireland at the Stade de Nice in Nice on June 12, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / TOBIAS SCHWARZTOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images
Northern Ireland fans look dejected whilst watching the UEFA Euro 2016, Group C match between Northern Ireland and Poland at the Titanic Museum, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday June 12, 2016. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Jonny Evans of Northern Ireland applauds the supporters after his team's 0-1 defeat in the UEFA EURO 2016 Group C match between Poland and Northern Ireland at Allianz Riviera Stadium on June 12, 2016 in Nice, France. Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
A Northern Ireland fan looks dejected whilst watching the UEFA Euro 2016, Group C match between Northern Ireland and Poland at the Titanic Museum, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday June 12, 2016. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Gareth McAuley (R) and Northern Ireland players applaud after their 0-1 defeat in the UEFA EURO 2016 Group C match between Poland and Northern Ireland at Allianz Riviera Stadium on June 12, 2016 in Nice, France. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Poland's defender Artur Jedrzejczyk (R) celebrates his team's victory next to Northern Ireland's forward Conor Washington at the end of the Euro 2016 group C football match between Poland and Northern Ireland at the Stade de Nice in Nice on June 12, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / TOBIAS SCHWARZTOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images
Conor Washington of Northern Ireland show their dejection after his team's 0-1 defeat in the UEFA EURO 2016 Group C match between Poland and Northern Ireland at Allianz Riviera Stadium on June 12, 2016 in Nice, France. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty during the UEFA Euro 2016, Group C match at the Stade de Nice, Nice. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday June 12, 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 defender Craig Cathcart reacts to his team's loss after the final whistle during the Euro 2016 group C football match between Poland and Northern Ireland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 12, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Valery HACHEVALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images
NICE, FRANCE - JUNE 12: Jonny Evans of Northern Ireland applauds the supporters after his team's 0-1 defeat in the UEFA EURO 2016 Group C match between Poland and Northern Ireland at Allianz Riviera Stadium on June 12, 2016 in Nice, France. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Northern Ireland fans appear dejected in the stands after seeing their side concede the first goal of the game during the UEFA Euro 2016, Group C match at the Stade de Nice, Nice. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday June 12, 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.
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill on the touchline during the UEFA Euro 2016, Group C match at the Stade de Nice, Nice.
Northern Ireland fans appear dejected in the stands after seeing their side concede the first goal of the game during the UEFA Euro 2016, Group C match at the Stade de Nice, Nice. Jonathan Brady/PA Wire.
Poland's forward Arkadiusz Milik (L) is congratualtes by teammates after scoring a goal during the Euro 2016 group C football match between Poland and Northern Ireland at the Stade de Nice in Nice on June 12, 2016.
Northern Ireland fans looks dejected after their team concede a goal as they watch the UEFA Euro 2016, Group C match between Northern Ireland and Poland at the Titanic Museum, Belfast.
Arkadiusz Milik (2nd L) of Poland scores his team's first goal past Michael McGovern of Northern Ireland during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group C match between Poland and Northern Ireland at Allianz Riviera Stadium on June 12, 2016 in Nice, France. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
Northern Ireland Manager Michael O'Neill during this afternoons Euro 2016 International at the Allianz stadium in Nice on Sunday. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Northern Ireland Fans at this afternoons Euro 2016 International at the Allianz stadium in Nice on Sunday. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Northern Ireland's Steven Davis and Poland's Michał Pazdan during this afternoons Euro 2016 International at the Allianz stadium in Nice on Sunday. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Poland's midfielder Krzysztof Maczynski (C) passes the ball during the Euro 2016 group C football match between Poland and Northern Ireland at the Stade de Nice in Nice on June 12, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / TOBIAS SCHWARZTOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images
Northern Ireland's Paddy McNair (right) and Poland's Arkadiusz Milik battle for the ball during the UEFA Euro 2016, Group C match at the Stade de Nice, Nice. Nick Potts/PA Wire.
Pat Jennings (centre) in the stands during the UEFA Euro 2016, Group C match at the Stade de Nice, Nice. Jonathan Brady/PA Wire.
Sir Alex Ferguson (centre) in the stands during the UEFA Euro 2016, Group C match at the Stade de Nice, Nice. Jonathan Brady/PA Wire.
Kyle Lafferty of Northern Ireland interacts with Wojciech Szczesny of Poland during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group C match between Poland and Northern Ireland at Allianz Riviera Stadium on June 12, 2016 in Nice, France. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Kate Hoey shows her support in the stands during the UEFA Euro 2016, Group C match at the Stade de Nice, Nice. Jonathan Brady/PA Wire.
Northern Ireland fans during Sundays Euro 2016, Group C match against Poland at the Stade de Nice, France.
Artur Jedrzejczyk of Poland and Kyle Lafferty of Northern Ireland compete for the ball during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group C match between Poland and Northern Ireland at Allianz Riviera Stadium on June 12, 2016 in Nice, France. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Northern Ireland fans during Sundays Euro 2016, Group C match against Poland at the Stade de Nice, France.
Poland's Robert Lewandowski heads at goal whilst under pressure from Northern Ireland's Conor McLaughlin (left) during the UEFA Euro 2016, Group C match at the Stade de Nice, Nice.
@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 12th June 2016 Mandatory Credit -Brian Little/Presseye Northern Ireland fan supporting Northern Ireland against Poland EURO 2016 at the Stade de Nice. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
Northern Ireland fans during Sundays Euro 2016, Group C match against Poland at the Stade de Nice, France.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 12th June 2016 - Photo by Press Eye - First Minister Arlene Foster with IFA President Jim Shaw and IFA Chief Executive Patrick Nelson at Poland V Northern Ireland in Nice, France.
Northern Ireland fans show their support in the stands before the UEFA Euro 2016, Group C match at the Stade de Nice, Nice. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday June 12, 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.
Northern Ireland fans show their support in the stands before the UEFA Euro 2016, Group C match at the Stade de Nice, Nice. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday June 12, 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.
Northern Ireland fans show their support in the stands before the UEFA Euro 2016, Group C match at the Stade de Nice, Nice. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday June 12, 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.
Poland's starting eleven pose for a group picture during the Euro 2016 group C football match between Poland and Northern Ireland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 12, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Valery HACHEVALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images
Poland supporters cheer their team on during the Euro 2016 group C football match between Poland and Northern Ireland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 12, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Valery HACHEVALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images
Northern Ireland supporters cheer during the Euro 2016 group C football match between Poland and Northern Ireland at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 12, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Valery HACHEVALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images
Northern Ireland's Steven Davis (centre) during the warm-up before the UEFA Euro 2016, Group C match at the Stade de Nice, Nice.
Northern Ireland fans in the stands during the UEFA Euro 2016, Group C match at the Stade de Nice, Nice.
Northern Ireland fans show their support in the stands before the UEFA Euro 2016, Group C match at the Stade de Nice, Nice.
Northern Ireland fans during Sundays Euro 2016, Group C match against Poland at the Stade de Nice, France.
@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 12th June 2016 Mandatory Credit -Brian Little/Presseye Northern Ireland fan Josh Baines aged 8, and father Roger and Grandfather Jim from Kilkeel enjoying the sunshine in Nice ahead of the Northern Ireland against Poland EURO 2016 match at the Stade de Nice. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 12th June 2016 Mandatory Credit -Brian Little/Presseye Northern Ireland fan Matthew Gibson , aged 12, from Donaghadee enjoying the sunshine in Nice ahead of the Northern Ireland against Poland EURO 2016 match at the Stade de Nice. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 12th June 2016 Mandatory Credit -Brian Little/Presseye Northern Ireland fans Ruth and David Crawford and Louise Hamilton from Donegal , enjoying the sunshine in Nice ahead of the Northern Ireland against Poland EURO 2016 match at the Stade de Nice. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 12th June 2016 Mandatory Credit -Brian Little/Presseye Northern Ireland fans Uel,William,Ian,Ken and Hugh Moulds from Lisburn , enjoying the sunshine in Nice ahead of the Northern Ireland against Poland EURO 2016 match at the Stade de Nice. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 12th June 2016 Mandatory Credit -Brian Little/Presseye Northern Ireland fans Olivia and Roy Kelly from Bangor, enjoying the sunshine in Nice ahead of the Northern Ireland against Poland EURO 2016 match at the Stade de Nice. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 12th June 2016 Mandatory Credit -Brian Little/Presseye Northern Ireland fan Marc, Gillian, Ann and Colin Francey from Portrush , enjoying the sunshine in Nice ahead of the Northern Ireland against Poland EURO 2016 match at the Stade de Nice. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 12th June 2016 Mandatory Credit -Brian Little/Presseye Northern Ireland fan David Clint from Comber , enjoying the sunshine in Nice ahead of the Northern Ireland against Poland EURO 2016 match at the Stade de Nice. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 12th June 2016 Mandatory Credit -Brian Little/Presseye Northern Ireland fans Uel,William,Ian,Ken and Hugh Moulds from Lisburn , enjoying the sunshine in Nice ahead of the Northern Ireland against Poland EURO 2016 match at the Stade de Nice. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
Northern Ireland v Poland Euro 2016 Group C Northern Ireland Fans From L-R Graeme Hamilton, Conor Munn, Scott Robinson and Luke McCreery at this afternoons Euro 2016 International at the Allianz stadium in Nice on Sunday. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Northern Ireland v Poland Euro 2016 Group C Northern Ireland Fans Graeme Hamilton, Conor Munn, Scott Robinson and Luke McCreery with Polish fans at this afternoons Euro 2016 International at the Allianz stadium in Nice on Sunday. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Northern Ireland v Poland Euro 2016 Group C Northern Ireland Fans Graeme Hamilton, Conor Munn, Scott Robinson and Luke McCreery get a selfie with Polish Fans at this afternoons Euro 2016 International at the Allianz stadium in Nice on Sunday. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Carl Frampton with fellow Northern Ireland fan James Tait in Nice
Northern Ireland v Poland Euro 2016 Group C Northern Ireland Fans David , Stuart and Colin Bell at this afternoons Euro 2016 International at the Allianz stadium in Nice on Sunday. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
First Minister Arlene Foster joins Northern Ireland fans in Nice ahead of their opening Euro 2016 game against Poland on Sunday.
First Minister Arlene Foster joins Northern Ireland fans in Nice ahead of their opening Euro 2016 game against Poland on Sunday.
First Minister Arlene Foster joins Northern Ireland fans in Nice ahead of their opening Euro 2016 game against Poland on Sunday.
First Minister Arlene Foster joins Northern Ireland fans in Nice ahead of their opening Euro 2016 game against Poland on Sunday.
Northern Ireland supporter and Groom Stuart Stockman (second left) outside the Ma Nolan's Irish pub in Nice, France ahead of his team's opening match against Poland in Euro 2016. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday June 11, 2016. See PA story SPORT Euro2016 StagNI. Photo credit should read: Michael McHugh/PA Wire
Northern Ireland supporters enjoying the sights of Nice, France ahead of the team's opening match against Poland in Euro 2016.
Northern Ireland fans appear on the balcony of their hotel on the seafront near Promenade des Anglais, Nice, France. PA
Northern Ireland fans are joined by a Polish football fan as they arrive on the seafront near Promenade des Anglais, Nice, France. PA
Northern Ireland fans appear on the balcony of their hotel on the seafront near Promenade des Anglais, Nice, France. PA
Northern Ireland fans appear on the balcony of their hotel on the seafront near Promenade des Anglais, Nice, France. PA
Northern Ireland fans arrive on the seafront near Promenade des Anglais, Nice, France. PA
Northern Ireland fans arrive on the beach near Promenade des Anglais, Nice, France. PA
Northern Ireland fans Chris Geoghegan and Richard McKnight from Belfast bump into Gary Lineker in France.
Philip Wright on tour with the Green and White army. They left on a 6am flight to Nice.
Ballymacash Northern Ireland supporter's club head off to France. Pic: Andrew Clarke
David Johnston and fellow Northern Ireland fans head off to France.
Crawford McCullough's 'mancave' in Bangor Co Down.
Northern Ireland flags flying in France. Picture: Dennis Russell
Adam Topping (33) from Scarva Northern Ireland in St Raphael. He has tickets all the way to the final so will not be home until July 11.
A Northern Ireland fan samples some ice cream in Lyon, France. Thursday June 9, 2016. PA
Colin Porter passing the time before he heads to Nice. Pic: Gary Porter
Home for Bedfordshire based Dave Price and his pals for the next two weeks at least
Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland fans on their way to France for Euro 2016. Pic: Gregg Clarke.
Northern Ireland fans Eddie McCullough and Ian Thompson pictured at the boulangerie in Georges de Reneins, France ahead of the opening Euro 2016 game against Poland in Lyon on Sunday. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 09th June 2016 - Photo by William Cherry
Northern Ireland Fan Ian Thompson from Ballymena travel threw St Georges de Reneines in a camper van, on the way to Nice as N Ireland face Poland in their opening match on Sunday. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty pictured during Fridays training session in St Georges de Reneins, France ahead of their opening Euro 2016 game against Poland on Sunday.

In the searing heat of the afternoon they walked as one, a sea of green, taking the final steps on a journey 30 years in the making.

The near-10,000 in Nice yesterday had come to bear witness to a moment of history for Northern Ireland football.

And as a proud Steven Davis led his country out at the start of their Euro 2016 adventure, they joined together again, forming a wall of noise and colour which provided a wonderful spectacle on this day of dreams on the French Riviera.

The only thing missing, of course, was the result.

Their opening game in France did not produce the perfect ending the special occasion demanded.

Northern Ireland slipped to a 1-0 defeat, which leaves Michael O'Neill's side with a sizeable task to make the next round.

But however short their stay in France, what an experience this has been for the thousands of fans who have made the journey.

After the carnage on the streets of Marseilles the previous night, to be in Nice yesterday was to see the football family at its very best.

Polish and Northern Irish fans mingled on the streets, some later making the journey to the stadium together.

One was even there for a match of a different kind - Ian Morton proposed to fiancee Rachel. She said 'oui'.

This was Northern Ireland's first match at a major tournament for a generation, coming 30 years after their 1986 World Cup adventure.

And no one wanted to miss the party.

The final wave of supporters had flown in yesterday morning, further swelling the ranks.

Among them was First Minister Arlene Foster, sporting the team colours in a green dress, who tweeted a photograph of herself clutching a Northern Ireland shirt with 'Foster' on the back.

She and boxer Carl Frampton mingled with supporters around the Fontaine du Soleil in the centre of town.

In the surrounding area, the great Green and White takeover of Nice saw the streets lined with supporters.

Fans spilled out of bars and cafes, almost blocking off the road which runs past Ma Nolan's Irish bar, one of their main rallying points.

At one stage, an irate local driver, struggling to get through the crowd, was offered a Northern Ireland flag and an invitation to join the party.

By mid-afternoon, fans began melting away from the centre of town for the final journey to the stadium.

The Allianz Riviera, renamed the Stade de Nice for the tournament, is a compact venue, set amid hillsides around 10km to the west of the city.

Shuttle buses ferried the supporters to a stop around half a mile from the ground.

Rival fans mingled as they set out on the final leg of the journey on foot.

There was singing and photographs were taken together.

And when it was time to say goodbye, there were handshakes and good luck messages.

As the stadium neared, the crowd of Northern Ireland fans massed into one, turning the approach road into a river of green and white. Inside they occupied a large corner section, flowing into two of the stands, with many more dotted in other parts of the arena.

Large swathes of the red and white patterned seats turned green as the countdown to kick-off drew closer.

With half an hour to go, the sounds of Sweet Caroline, one of the Northern Ireland fans' favourite call to arms, echoed around the ground.

"Good times never seemed so good," they sang.

Few could argue with that yesterday. A group of about 160 dancers, half of them dressed in green, took part in a short pre-match show.

Two giant jerseys representing both teams were unfurled on the pitch. Moments later the teams emerged, Northern Ireland led out by their inspirational captain Davis.

The bond between the fans extended to the pre-game formalities, with some Polish supporters applauding the Northern Ireland anthem. Finally it was time for the football.

The 0-0 half-time score would have been more favourably received by the Northern Ireland fans after an opening period dominated by Poland.

As the match entered the second half, O'Neill's side chased and harried and blocked.

They battled valiantly in their efforts to resist a fine Poland side, but could not quite finish the job. Arkadiusz Milik, a striker with Dutch club Ajax, scored the winner in the 51st minute.

The goal did little to quell the noise of the Northern Ireland fans. Indeed it seemed to raise it to a new level.

At the final whistle, their singing more than matched the victory cheers of the army of Polish supporters.

Whatever Northern Ireland go on to achieve over the next eight days, and it's not over yet, however disappointing this result, they have been one of the stories of the tournament.

Last night the Green and White Army were preparing to decamp from the heat of Nice.

They are marching north, headed for Lyon, France's cultural capital, where the journey continues this week.

Belfast Telegraph

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