Belfast Telegraph

I couldn't be any more proud, says dad of Northern Ireland manager O'Neill

By Angela Rainey

The father of Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill said that he could not feel any more proud after his son made history by leading the team to the first knock-out round of the Euros.

Although Northern Ireland lost 1-0 to world champions Germany, Turkey's win over the Czech Republic secured the team a place in the last 16 to the delight of O'Neill's family and the loyal GAWA.

The Northern Ireland manager is now looking forward to the next game against Wales.

After the Republic's victory over Italy decided who NI would face, he said: "It is going to be a fantastic game. We will be heading back to the Parc des Princes, which as we know from Tuesday night is a brilliant stadium. We will benefit from the familiarity of having been there already, of having done the journey and of having played on the pitch.

"We are in no doubt that it is going to be a tough game against Wales, but we will go into the match believing that we can win and that we can progress."

His dad Des, who attended the Northern Ireland versus Poland match in Nice, is now back in his Portadown home with wife Pat, where they plan to watch the rest of the tournament, while all four children and eight grandchildren remain in France to lend support.

Mr O'Neill Snr, a football fan and former GAA and hurling player, called his son's achievement "tremendous".

"I have to say that I certainly am proud," he said.

"It is a remarkable achievement for the team and the manager and it seems all the scribes agree.

"It has been tremendous to get a small place like Northern Ireland into a major tournament like the Euros. It really is just tremendous.

"A couple of years ago, it was impossible to conceive and so it is to his and the team's credit that they have got this far.

"I did not think a couple of years ago, when results were really going very poorly, that they would ever get this length at all.

"Both his mother and I are really delighted that he has been so hugely successful as manager. I don't think we could feel any prouder.

"We're a close-knit family, we see each other all the time and we all get on well, so although the father of the O'Neill family might not be there (for the match), there certainly are plenty of O'Neills there to represent me."

Clearly proud of his son and the efforts of the team, Mr O'Neill told the Nolan Show yesterday of his son's fledgling footballing career.

He said: "I would always watch soccer, but I was always on the other side of the fence with GAA, and played hurling and Gaelic football, but I always went to watch Michael play at Coleraine. Most of the time he is calm and collected, but when Northern Ireland had finally qualified at Windsor Park, as he said himself, he took off down the sideline like a greyhound.

"When you achieve something like that, it's very hard to sit there all cool, calm and collected."

He told how the six minutes of extra time in Nice felt like he was on the edge of his seat for hours as he steeled his nerves and waited with bated breath.

"There were experts on the television like the footballers and the journalists saying Northern Ireland would not get one point and there they are," Mr O'Neill added.

"It goes to show that no one is infallible. I just hope my nerves hold out for the next game."

Belfast Telegraph