Tears for incredible journey
Published 22/11/2007 | 09:05
Northern Ireland's rollercoaster ride through the Euro 2008 qualifiers finally ground to a halt last night as the slim hope of making the finals was stamped out by defeat in Gran Canaria.
But for the 10,000 fans who made the trip from Northern Ireland and beyond to watch the green and white army, it was a journey they wouldn't have missed for the world.
Just 4,000 of that number got in to watch the match in the stadium at Las Palmas, while another 6,000 supporters packed the bars in Gran Canaria to cheer on their team.
Some Northern Ireland supporters who trickled into the stadium 15 minutes after kick-off found themselves locked out after several gates were closed.
However, the problem was soon rectified and the late- comers were allowed to take their seats and cheer on their team.
Despite a supreme effort from Nigel Worthington's boys, a one-nil defeat at the hands of Spain - and a two-one win by Sweden - meant it was all over for Northern Ireland.
A goal from Xavi seven minutes into the second half shattered fans hopes of keeping the Euro 2008 dream alive.
Paying tribute to the players, the man who took over from Lawrie Sanchez said: "We worked hard and had fun, but what we've shown over the last three games - it was absolutely magnificent.
"We know they are quality players and they would have a lot of possession - we stuck to our task and showed bucket-loads of commitment and effort."
Mr Worthington continued: "They are absolutely magnificent as they always are.
"I can't fault the players. But one-nil is no disgrace coming here."