Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland 3-1 Greece: Goals were for my mum, says inspirational Steven Davis

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis has revealed the emotional celebrations behind his two goals in last night's 3-1 victory over Greece at Windsor Park were in memory of his late mum Laura.

Davis led by example, netting twice in a man of the match display which befitted his status of one of Northern Ireland's finest-ever players.

When the first went in after 35 minutes to set Michael O'Neill's men on the road to France and Euro 2016 qualification, he pointed to the heavens thinking about his biggest fan.

He said: "Whenever I scored I just lost myself in the moment and she came into my head at the important time.

"My mum passed away in 2008. She was my biggest fan … those two goals were for her."

On the eve of the match Davis predicted that someone would step up in the absence of the suspended Kyle Lafferty, who before last night had scored seven goals out of the 12 Northern Ireland had netted in the qualifying campaign.

That someone turned out to be Davis himself with a little help from Josh Magennis who also weighed in with a crucial strike.

"When I said someone could be a hero I didn't think it would be me," stated the modest Southampton star, who will follow in the footsteps of Danny Blanchflower, Martin O'Neill and Sammy McIlroy in captaining Northern Ireland at a major finals.

"Regardless, the most important thing is we won. I was delighted to get on the scoresheet but credit to everyone of the players, the management. It was a real team effort and you saw what it meant at the final whistle.

"I was so pleased for all the lads that came in to replace players who were suspended or injured.

"It was a difficult situation, especially for Josh, but he was inspirational. He led the line and gave the two centre backs problems all night. It was nice to see him get the goal and it obviously meant a lot. Michael said the quality in the squad has gone up and you saw that tonight. It's important to have that competition for places."

Like all the players, Davis hailed qualifying for the Euro finals as his best footballing moment.

"Football-wise it's got to be right up there. It's a huge night. You only have to look how long it's been since we qualified for a major tournament and how difficult it is to do that," he said.

"It's hard to put into words, we'll enjoy tonight and then look forward to France.

"It's huge for the whole country and hopefully it'll unite everyone."

As for the legendary status the current team now have, just like the Northern Ireland players in the 1958, 1982 and 1986 World Cups before them, the former Rangers star added: "Just to be mentioned in the same breath as those boys is testament to the work that's been done.

"It's hard to reflect straight after the game.

"Nobody expected it to be honest. We were expecting a tough game, which it was but we got the goals at important times.

"Them hitting the post right before the halt-time whistle was a big turning point. We got a bit of luck then."

And on manager O'Neill?

"It's a testament to the work he's done on the training pitch," he said.

"Everyone knows their roles, he's found a way to win games and there's no need to change it now, is there?"

Michael O'Neill. So good, so good, so good. #GAWA @OfficialIrishFA

— Ian Woods (@IanWoodsSky) October 8, 2015

Reporter Paul Gilmour was soaked by Kyle Lafferty and Chris Baird after Northern Ireland's win over Greece. #SSNHQ

— Sky Sports News HQ (@SkySportsNewsHQ) October 8, 2015

Belfast Telegraph