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Now let's go and light up Europe

By Ian Cahoon

Published 28/05/2016

On our way: Northern Ireland’s players were given a rousing send-off by the fans last night
On our way: Northern Ireland’s players were given a rousing send-off by the fans last night
Fan power: Chris Baird will have no shortage of supporters in France if this banner is anything to go by at Windsor Park last night

Northern Ireland fans enjoyed the perfect send off at Windsor Park.

Long before kick-off, both inside and approaching the ground, there was a party atmosphere and that continued throughout the 90 minutes as Michael O'Neill's men ran out comfortable 3-0 winners.

Once the final whistle went there were fireworks, a message from the manager and a lap of honour for all those heading to Euro 2016 in two weeks.

It all added up to a carnival atmosphere for the 14,500 fans in the three sides of the old ground which have been renovated.

Fan Andy Gregg heaped praise on the IFA: "Fair play to them, they normally get a lot of stick but it was a night to remember.

"It was great seeing so many kids and families there and they'll always remember this night, hopefully it'll help to grow the support even more. We've heard of teams going off in '82 and '86 so it was nice to have our own send-off for this team.

"I thought Michael O'Neill spoke really well. It's all getting real that we're actually going to the Euros now."

The game itself won't live too long in the memory but the win was never in doubt as soon as Kyle Lafferty pounced to score his early goal.

Conor Washington scored his second in as many games and it looks like the Green And White Army may have a new goalscoring hero.

In fact, all three strikers got themselves on the scoresheet, and fans certainly got what they wanted when Will Grigg hit the back of the net late on.

The Wigan striker was being serenaded all night with the now famous 'Will Grigg's on fire' terrace chant.

Colin Speers said: "The stand behind the net was bouncing when that went in! There's a real feelgood factor about supporting Northern Ireland at the minute and that summed it up.

"The players obviously loved it too, going by their reaction. We wouldn't mind being able to sing it a few times in France!"

Martin Best added: "I think it was a bit of a stroll through the actual match itself to be honest,"

"Belarus were pretty poor if truth be told, but it gave people game time that they needed going to the tournament.

"You can't keep playing the same 12 or 13 players, we're going to need our squad going over there.

"Will Grigg did really well when he came on and it shows we have a few options up front."

Northern Ireland now head for their training camp in Austria and face Slovakia in the final warm-up game next Saturday.

Alan Girvin said: "We're 11 matches unbeaten, scoring goals and keeping clean sheets.

"Everyone is going to France in confident mood - the players, the manager, and the fans.

"I honestly believe we'll go there and make a name for ourselves.

"Other teams will underestimate us at their peril."

Belfast Telegraph

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