The Green and White Army has been my favorite part of Euro 2016. Bottom line. The football on the pitch has been entertaining to say the least (especially that England-Wales game, eh?), but when a nation is making its European Championship debut and the fans turn out as they have for Northern Ireland, it's something special indeed.
Conditions in Lyon weren't the best for Norn Iron's second match of the tournament, but Ukraine had to deal with the same thing, and the men in green and white were certainly better at adapting to the rain (and even a few minutes of hail). They came out strong and dominated the first half, though their first goal didn't come until Gareth McAuley's beautiful header in the 49th minute.
Gareth McAuley's goal made much better with Titanic music pic.twitter.com/aizQECbxrB— Andrew (@MartialMastery) June 16, 2016
Nice work with the soundtrack, Andrew.
After enduring a Ukrainian offensive throughout the remaining 40 minutes, Niall McGinn scored a second in the sixth minute of stoppage time to seal the win and the three points for Northern Ireland. A single point against Germany will likely be enough to see them through to the knockout stages, and that's a tall task, but the win alone felt so good.
And on the Leeds United Stuart Dallas watch, Dallas got the start (!) and played the full 90+ minutes in Lyon. He was a part of the attack all day, had a shot or two on net, but didn't directly factor into either goal. I'm sure he didn't mind. He also had a few confrontations with a Ukrainian defender or two, and earned himself a yellow in the 87th minute. He definitely made an impact.
The highlight of the day though was always the Green and White Army of supporters. Colin Murray of TalkSport and MetroUK told the story best yesterday with multiple fan videos on his Twitter account. One in particular went a bit viral, but all of them are worth watching to realize just how important these matches are to the Northern Ireland supporters. They have showed up in numbers in France, and you had to be happy for them yesterday.
I mean, isn't that the best part of international football? Fans making memories they'll never forget with their countrymen, and their team delivering them their first win ever in the European finals. That's a fabulous day of fandom.
Next up: a frustrated Germany. The Euro-favorites/reigning World Cup champs suffered a scoreless draw at the hands of Poland, and they'll be looking to take out their frustrations on Northern Ireland's defense. Cherish this match against Ukraine, #NIR... and good luck on Tuesday.