Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Fans enjoy the ride

They failed to reign in Spain, but the Northern Ireland fans' message is plain - it has been a journey to remember.

Around 4,000 travelled to the holiday island of Gran Canaria but failed to roar on Nigel Worthington's men to that elusive victory.

Nevertheless the Green and White Army partied long into the night in celebration of what has been a truly memorable campaign.

Part of the travelling party was Stuart Mellon, a member of the Bangor Northern Ireland Supporters' Club, maintains that the carnival atmosphere was not diminished despite the 1-0 defeat.

"It's still a party atmosphere here to be honest, the fans were in the stadium long after the whistle as they always do.

"If we're being honest it was always going to be a tough task coming here to beat Spain and hoping Sweden slipped up, but we have to remember it was only a few years since we couldn't buy a goal.

"It's a cliché, but it really has been a roller coaster of a qualifying campaign, although with Northern Ireland you couldn't have it any other way."

Fellow Bangor man Dave Watson added: "To be honest I can't say I'm surprised with the result and how things turned out.

"The performance from us wasn't great, but I think you have to remember that we were playing a world class side - no matter who they put out.

Ian McKinney admitted that his thoughts have turned to qualification for the 2010 World Cup already.

" The players have to take heart from this group and whenever we start the next campaign they have to keep in their minds how the lesser games have cost us," he said.

"Qualifying wasn't really lost against Spain tonight, it was the defeats to Iceland and Latvia which really cost us.

"After the Iceland game at the start of the group we were always there or thereabouts to qualify but it's just disappointing to have fallen out of the top two at the end of it all.

"The bottom line is that we've finished third in the group and have done ourselves a massive favour for the World Cup qualifiers.

"The last year has given us all some brilliant memories and trips, and the scrapbook has fairly increased."