Belfast Telegraph

O'Neill: I don't want to get off this rollercoaster

By Graham Luney

Sean O'Neill says he feels like he's on a rollercoaster at Crusaders and he doesn't want to get off.

The north-Belfast side continued their history making exploits by progressing in Europe's premier club competition for the first time ever and their sensational two-legged triumph over Levadia Tallinn follows hot on the heels of a first league title in 18 years and a debut European success in the Europa League last summer.

A 1-1 draw in Tallinn sealed an away-goal win and a second qualifying round clash with Albania's Skenderbeu Korce, the first leg scheduled for the Skenderbeu Stadium on Tuesday.

O'Neill is now bursting with pride after becoming the first man to captain the Crues to a Champions League success.

As club skipper Colin Coates was on holiday in France, the Crues number one was handed the armband for the clash at Estonia's national stadium and Michael Carvill's early goal proved to be the decisive strike despite Siim Luts' reply. "It feels like we are on a rollercoaster ride or on top of a wave and we don't want it to stop," said O'Neill.

"To come to Estonia and win a Champions League tie has given us so much confidence and who can say now that this Crusaders team cannot go and beat the Albanian side as well?

"We are history makers and every time we make history another challenge presents itself and we just rise to it.

"People might have thought our victory in Europe last year was a one-off but the reality is very different.

"It was an absolute honour for me to captain this club in Estonia and be part of this historic win.

"It's been an astonishing team effort, this is a very special changing room, the new boys have been superb and Colin (Coates) just might not get the armband back because it won't fit him now!"

O'Neill insisted Crusaders weren't guilty of a smash and grab raid in Tallinn.

The Seaview shot-stopper was protected by an effective defensive shield in both ties.

He added: "The boys are buzzing and rightly so.

"I had to deal with a lot of crosses but not too many shots and I think they played into our hands.

"The boys in front of me were outstanding and they deserve a lot of credit.

"Colin Coates was missing but he played his part in the first leg and Davy Magowan came in and was one of the man of the match candidates. Josh Robinson, Craig McClean and Billy Joe Burns were also superb in front of me. They all deserve praise. We could have ran out 3-1 winners and over the two legs we thoroughly deserved to go through.

"We dug in deep when we had to and created so many chances.

"We have some sensational talent going forward so we knew if the defence could stand firm we would have a great chance.

"Paul Heatley's pass for Michael Carvill's goal was something else and the finish was sublime.

"Our wing play is fantastic but we won't be resting on our laurels now."

Belfast Telegraph


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