Sports Minister Carál Ní Chuilín has congratulated the Northern Ireland football team on qualifying for the European Championship.
The side secured a 3-1 victory over Greece at Windsor Park to qualify for its first major tournament for 30 years and first ever European Championship.
The Minister said: “I wholeheartedly congratulate the football team on securing its place at UEFA Euro 2016 in France. For the fifth-seeded team in the draw to qualify automatically is a phenomenal achievement and is testament to the manager Michael O’Neill and the whole squad.
“Michael has, through a combination of sound man management and tactical acumen, instilled a consistency in the side that has been lacking in recent years. The team has had to dig deep during the campaign, no more so than when scoring a vital, last-gasp equaliser against Hungary last month.
“Supporters can now look forward with relish to the tournament in France next year and the draw for the group stages in December.”
The Minister also hailed the performance of the Republic of Ireland team who won 1-0 against Germany at the Aviva Stadium, to remain in the running for a place at the tournament.
Ms Ní Chuilín said: “The Ireland team can be incredibly proud of their efforts against world champions Germany. The players took on the advice of manager Martin O’Neill and truly put everything into their performance. To win against what is without doubt the best international side in the world is a great achievement.
“They are now guaranteed at least a play-off spot and victory or a high-scoring draw against Poland in their final group game on Sunday evening will guarantee automatic qualification for the Euro 2016 finals.”
The Minister added: “No matter what happens now, this has been a memorable and commendable qualifying campaign for both international sides. Supporters have enjoyed, or perhaps endured, the full range of emotions that sport can evoke. The two teams have been an inspiration and can look to the future with optimism.”
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