Former Derry City man Niall McGinn has described scoring in Northern Ireland’s win over Ukraine, as the best moment of his life.
The Tyrone man, who started his playing career in the Irish League with Dungannon Swifts, blasted home in stoppage time to secure Michael O’Neill’s men their first competitive victory at a championship in over 30 years.
A few years ago McGinn ruined Cristiano Ronaldo’s night when he scored when the Real Madrid man was celebrating his 100th cap but McGinn feels his goal in Lyon tops that.
“I think that’s going to be the best moment of my life,” he stated.
“I scored on the European stage, millions watching around the world.
“To score against Ronaldo on his 100th cap was obviously a special moment, and the first [international] goal is always special, but to score in a major tournament against the best in the world - I don’t think anything can top that.
“Even just sitting on the bench, seeing the support, you want to be part of it, want to get on the pitch, get some game time.
“For me to score on top of that was unbelievable, and to celebrate in front of our fans was incredible.
“It was perfect that both goals came in front of the fans, it re-paid the faith that the fans have shown us in the tournament so far.”
Now the 28-year-old, like everyone, is already turning his attentions to next Tuesday night’s mouth-watering encounter against one of the tournament favourites Germany, in Paris.
The ex-Dungannon Swifts winger believes they can get a result against the World Championships.
“If we got a win tonight, Tuesday was always going to take care of itself,” he added.
“We know from watching the Ukraine-Germany game that we can create chances - Ukraine created a lot of chances, so hopefully we can do the same on Tuesday.
“Hopefully keep a clean sheet and nick one.”
In recent games McGinn has played a starring role coming off the bench and he doesn’t mind that as long as he keeps on scoring.
“If it keeps working, why not? I’ll be over the moon with it,” he added.
“No, for me personally I was just delighted to get on the pitch and play some minutes.
“I was disappointed not to get on against Poland but I’ve worked hard behind the scenes and I’ve kept my head right.
“The manager, management team, and players have all come up to me and said ‘Well done for biding your time – you just got rewarded by coming on and scoring like that’.”
McGinn was full of praise for the man who masterminded the win: his boss Michael O’Neill.
The Northern Ireland gaffer made five changes to the side which lost to Poland in their opening game and McGinn conceded that he can’t remember a more complete performance from Northern Ireland.
“I don’t think so. From goalkeeper right through to Conor (Washington), I thought he was outstanding, he held the ball up for us, he ran in behind, created chances for us.
“All over the pitch boys were outstanding.
“Defensively we were superb as well - any balls that came into the box it was always a Northern Ireland man on it.
“The great delivery that Olly (Oliver Norwood) put in for G (Gareth McAuley), and then for me to come on and score, all in all it was an outstanding performance - clean sheet and the win.”
The talented winger admitted he had feeling they might get one more chance and he was over the moon that that opportunity felt to him and he took it.
“Michael said just to get us up the pitch as much as we could, we knew we were under a lot of pressure.
“We were defending a lot of balls, but we felt strong, we felt confident, and I felt hopefully we’d get a chance and I’d be on the end of it.
“I was delighted that Josh (Magennis) took it round the full-back, and Stuartie (Dallas) has shouted over, so I left it for him. He shot, so I just followed up and it fell for me – delighted.
He was worried that the referee’s assistant’s flag would be up and that would have ended the celebrations.
“Yeah, I did, a defender slipped and I hoped I wasn’t offside, I just kept running, and I heard no whistle, so I was delighted obviously.”