Belfast Telegraph

'Your team's doing well,' Queen told NI football boss O'Neill during MBE ceremony

By Catherine Wylie

The Queen has revealed her support for the Green and White Army as she appointed Northern Ireland football manager Michael O'Neill an MBE at Buckingham Palace.

The Co Antrim boss talked football with Her Majesty as he was recognised for services to football and to the community in Northern Ireland.

The 47-year-old took Northern Ireland to Euro 2016 last summer, the country's first major tournament in 30 years.

O'Neill, who is from Ballymena but lives in Edinburgh, said the Queen remarked on how well Northern Ireland performed in France, at yesterday's ceremony.

There he guided the side to a memorable 2-0 win over Ukraine which led to qualification for the last 16 of the tournament.

"All the people at the Palace have made it very easy for us, very welcoming, and done it with a nice sense of humour as well," he said.

"And a few words from the Queen who had said we had done very well in the summer, and I said how it had been such a positive thing for Northern Ireland, and she was aware of that, and she said that was great, and just to keep doing it."

Asked if the Queen seemed to be a football fan, O'Neill said: "A little bit. She knew enough about what we had achieved and what we had done."

The football manager said the honour was "a very personal thing", adding: "It's a lovely day for me, for the family.

"It's something that I didn't expect at all, to be honest. It's just something that's very special."

While few moments could top the win in Lyon, yesterday's investiture came close for the Northern Ireland manager.

He said: "The people in the Palace were fantastic to me as well as to Bronagh and the girls (his wife and daughters Erin and Olivia). They showed us around and made it really easy for us. We were there early so we had front row seats, which is what the girls wanted.

"I was actually second last to get mine. Myself and the gymnast Max Whitlock were the last two.

"It is something that I will likely never do again, so I am delighted that it went as well as it did and that it was such a great day."

Football fans from across Ireland were honoured for their sportsmanship during Euro 2016 by the mayor of Paris.

Anne Hidalgo offered the city's most prestigious award - the Grand Vermeil - to fans from both Northern Ireland and the Republic.

The Northern Ireland fans won hearts across Europe during the tournament, with supporters introducing anthem Will Grigg's on Fire to the masses.

O'Neill said his team's fans gave "amazing support", adding: "I think other supporters almost marvelled at how much support we got for such a small country."

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