Belfast - Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill pledged
that his side would "make an impact" at the 2016 European
Championship after securing a historic qualification for the tournament.
Captain Steven Davis scored twice as O'Neill's men beat
Greece 3-1 at Windsor Park in Belfast on Thursday to qualify for their first
major championship since the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.
It will be the first time Northern Ireland have ever
appeared at a European Championship, but O'Neill says they will not travel to
France to make up the numbers.
Also read: Home nations seek Euro glory
"We're not just going to go to France and enjoy
it," said O'Neill, whose side have risen from 88th to 35th in the FIFA
world ranking during his tenure.
"We're going to go and try to make an impact. I
genuinely believe, fitness and availability willing, we can go there with a
"I'm very proud of what we've achieved. This is
certainly the highest point of my career, either as a player or a manager."
O'Neill reserved special praise for Southampton midfielder
Davis, who netted either side of a Josh Magennis header before Christos
Aravidis claimed a late consolation for the Greeks.
"Steven's performance was out of this world. He is a
magnificent captain," said O'Neill, a former player with Newcastle United
and Wigan Athletic, who succeeded Nigel Worthington as manager in December
"Anyone in the squad will validate that opinion. That
gives you an indication of the type of player and person he is.
"We've come from an era where Northern Ireland players
were criticised for not being available at certain times, but in this squad we
have real togetherness and spirit.
"For those players who've been through campaign after
campaign and been through loads of disappointments -- and had a lot of
criticism -- this is their moment as much as it is mine."
Davis, who was a year old when his country last graced a
major tournament, dedicated his goals to his late mother.
"When I scored, it obviously meant a lot because my mum
passed away in 2008," he said. "She was my biggest fan. Those two
goals were for her."For
the latest on national news, politics, sport, entertainment and more follow us
on Twitter and like our Facebook page.