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Gareth McAuley

My Euro 2016 goal against Ukraine was for everyone associated with Northern Ireland

Gareth McAuley


 

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It felt like things went in slow motion when the ball his the net against Ukraine.

It felt like things went in slow motion when the ball his the net against Ukraine.

Gareth McAuley, bottom, was mobbed by Northern Ireland players having scored against Ukraine

Gareth McAuley, bottom, was mobbed by Northern Ireland players having scored against Ukraine

Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley is mobbed by team-mates after scoring his side's first goal of the game during the UEFA Euro 2016, Group C match at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais, Lyon. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday June 16, 2016. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Nick Potts/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only. Book and magazine sales permitted providing not solely devoted to any one team/player/match. No commercial use. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 for further information.

Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley is mobbed by team-mates after scoring his side's first goal of the game during the UEFA Euro 2016, Group C match at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais, Lyon. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday June 16, 2016. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Nick Potts/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only. Book and magazine sales permitted providing not solely devoted to any one team/player/match. No commercial use. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 for further information.

PA

@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 10th June  2016
Mandatory Credit -Brian Little/Presseye

 Northern Ireland Gareth McAuley  celebrates scoring a goal with Conor Washingtonagainst    Ukraine       during Thursday's  Group C  EURO 2016 match at the Stade de Lyon.
Picture by Brian Little/Presseye

@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 10th June 2016 Mandatory Credit -Brian Little/Presseye Northern Ireland Gareth McAuley celebrates scoring a goal with Conor Washingtonagainst Ukraine during Thursday's Group C EURO 2016 match at the Stade de Lyon. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye

Gareth McAuley heads Northern Ireland to Euro glory (June 16, 2016)

Gareth McAuley heads Northern Ireland to Euro glory (June 16, 2016)

©William Cherry / Presseye

Lapping it up: Gareth McAuley (centre) celebrates scoring Northern Ireland’s first goal

Lapping it up: Gareth McAuley (centre) celebrates scoring Northern Ireland’s first goal

PA

Gareth McAuley celebrates

Gareth McAuley celebrates

�INPHO/Presseye/William Cherry

It felt like things went in slow motion when the ball his the net against Ukraine.

All I kept thinking as the ball was in the air was "Don't miss, make a good connection".

Then suddenly it was all slow motion.

The ball was in the back of the net, I was away celebrating, the crowd were going crazy and, to be honest, it's then a bit of a blank. Totally surreal.

Northern Ireland's win over Ukraine at the Euros, which took place four years ago today, will live long in my memory and I was so proud to play an important role.

There is a great aerial shot of my goal, which was sent to me, and I think it sums up Northern Ireland as a whole.

It was taken above the stadium and shows me scoring, my team-mates celebrating, Michael O'Neill and the subs jumping for joy on the touchline and, more importantly for me, the wild celebrations of the Northern Ireland fans behind the goal.

I may have scored it, but the goal was for everyone associated with Northern Ireland. A huge team effort involving players, coaches and fans. To do it in front of my family - my wife Fran and kids Bobby and Lexi were in the stadium - was extremely special.

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Biggest fans: Gareth McAuley’s wife Fran with daughter Lexi

Biggest fans: Gareth McAuley’s wife Fran with daughter Lexi

©William Cherry / Presseye

Biggest fans: Gareth McAuley’s wife Fran with daughter Lexi

 

Afterwards, though, I didn't really get time to enjoy the moment with my team-mates or indeed family because as soon as you come off the pitch you need to do media flash interviews for television. It is not just one or two - in this case, around 20 as German TV, Polish TV and loads of networks from around Europe wanted to speak to me.

I was probably getting angrier and angrier in each interview as all I wanted to do was go back to the dressing room. Then when I did get back there they whisked me to do a man of the match presentation and who should be presenting me with it but my former Irish League team-mate Ian Young. I thought that was just amazing and pretty cool. It certainly made me smile.

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Digging deep: Gareth McAuley presents his shirt from the win over Ukraine to supporter Mark Harrison who won a raffle which raised more than £10,000 for Cancer Fund for Children. Sorcha Mac Laimhin (left), Corporate Fundraiser at the charity, hands over the fantastic prize

Digging deep: Gareth McAuley presents his shirt from the win over Ukraine to supporter Mark Harrison who won a raffle which raised more than £10,000 for Cancer Fund for Children. Sorcha Mac Laimhin (left), Corporate Fundraiser at the charity, hands over the fantastic prize

Digging deep: Gareth McAuley presents his shirt from the win over Ukraine to supporter Mark Harrison who won a raffle which raised more than £10,000 for Cancer Fund for Children. Sorcha Mac Laimhin (left), Corporate Fundraiser at the charity, hands over the fantastic prize

 

The next day was designated family time and it was wonderful to have the kids up at the team hotel, but of course it was only for a few hours and then it was extremely difficult to say goodbye, especially when the kids didn't understand why they had to leave their daddy so soon.

Certainly a range of emotions over those 24 hours in France four years ago.

Belfast Telegraph