Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards: Favourite sporting moment - Gareth McAuley's goal v Ukraine

Gareth McAuley heads home against Ukraine
Gareth McAuley heads home against Ukraine

GARETH McAuley's headed goal in the Euro finals against Ukraine has been voted Northern Ireland's favourite sporting moment of 2016.

In a year filled with sporting highs, the West Bromwich Albion defender, just as he was on that unforgettable evening in Lyon, was head and shoulders above the rest when Belfast Telegraph readers were asked to make their choice from 10 incredible feats achieved by Northern Ireland's heroes.

McAuley's goal came in Northern Ireland's second group match in France after they had lost their opener to Poland. Michael O'Neill's men required a win and to get it they needed someone to step up and be a hero.

The former Coleraine star proved to be that man. In the 49th minute on June 16 he connected perfectly with Oliver Norwood's inviting free-kick to power home a header that sent the Green and White Army crazy with delight in the stadium and back home.

It was Northern Ireland's first ever goal in the European Championship finals and a crowning moment for McAuley and his team-mates who were on their way to becoming Kings of Lyon.

Niall McGinn added a second late in the fray to earn the men in green a vital 2-0 success that helped take them into the knockout stages.

"It was an incredible feeling seeing the ball hit the net and to have it voted as Northern Ireland's top sporting moment in 2016 when we had so many sporting successes makes me feel very proud," said McAuley.

Northern Ireland's Top 10 sporting moments of 2016Gareth McAuley's Euro 2016 NI goal v UkraineCarl Frampton beating Leo Santa CruzJonathan Rea retaining his World Superbike titleBethany Firth's golden world recordJason Smyth's gold at ParalympicsMichael McKillop's gold at ParalympicsRory Best leading Ireland to victory over New ZealandRory McIlroy winning FedEx CupTyrone lifting the Ulster ChampionshipAlastair Seeley breaking Robert Dunlop's NW200 record