Niall McGinn sums up scoring that crucial second goal against Ukraine at UEFA Euro 2016 in one word: sensational.
Today marks five years since the memorable 2-0 win in Lyon when messrs McAuley and McGinn etched their names into Northern Ireland footballing folklore. And the man who put the icing on the cake on a day that never be forgotten has been looking back on the part he played on 16 June 2016.
He didn’t feature in our tournament opener against Poland in Nice but McGinn was given the nod by then boss Michael O’Neill as a second-half substitute against Ukraine. And boy did the winger seize his moment.
After Gareth McAuley had headed Northern Ireland in front McGinn was introduced to the fray from the bench. And in the dying embers of the game he was first to react when Stuart Dallas’ shot from the edge of the area was saved by Andrey Pyatov. McGinn pounced and tucked the ball home from close range to send the GAWA into raptures.
It’s things you just dream of but to live in that moment of scoring that goal and then just running towards the Green and White Army, it was just sensational
“You grow up watch these tournaments. You grow up watching the best players in the world but to get on the pitch I was just over the moon. I never thought in a million years that I’d end up scoring an important second goal,” McGinn admitted.
“We knew could have done a lot better against Poland and we were changing shape. We were going more attacking and we were going to get after Ukraine and we saw that from the start of the game, just how well we pressed.
“For me personally going to the game I good vibe that I would get an opportunity to get a run out. Once Michael called me to come for Jamie Ward I was over the moon because it was the first time in 30 years that we’d qualified for a major tournament and it was the first time for me to get a run-out at a major tournament.
“Regarding the atmosphere and whole occasion, it’s things you just dream of but to live in that moment of scoring that goal and then just running towards the Green and White Army, it was just sensational.”
So does McGinn remember how he reacted when McAuley opened the scoring in the 49th minute?
“I don’t remember too much about it actually. Because I scored the second goal I remember more my own moment. But it was just joy because we obviously had just scored our first goal at a major tournament in many years and we knew if we won that game we had the opportunity of going further and thankfully Big G did score that important goal and then with me scoring the second it worked out well for us," he said.
“The goal I scored was just something special. It meant so much to me, family, friends and the Green and White Army and to the whole nation. It is definitely the best moment of my career and I don’t think it will ever be beaten. It’s one that will live long in the memory.
“It just leaves me hungry for more. We want to get to more major tournaments and we know it’s always difficult but I’m thankful I’ve done but it does make me hungry for more.”