O’Neill praises squad as they finish 2015 with a win

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill delighted his side finished 2015 with a win at Windsor Park.
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill delighted his side finished 2015 with a win at Windsor Park.

Michael O’Neill praised his Northern Ireland side for signing off a superb 2015 in winning fashion.

It has been an unforgettable year for O’Neill and his side, who last month ended a 30-year absence from tournament football by sealing a place at Euro 2016.

And a 1-0 win over Latvia at Windsor Park ensured they ended the year on a high, captain Steven Davis grabbing the only goal of the game to record Northern Ireland’s first friendly win since March 2008.

“This is the last time we will see each other as a group until March. The main thing was to win the game and get a level of performance,” he said.

“We have had a great year with some great results, and a great campaign.

“We should celebrate the achievements of the team. That’s eight games unbeaten now and a clean sheet was good as well. So it was all positive.

“We are looking forward to the tournament now. The players have to recognise what has got them here to this point, and the work rate and energy they have put in, and the belief and confidence they have as a team.

“It was important we maintained that and didn’t let our performance dip. The players took that on board.”

O’Neill was also armed with a tongue-in-cheek response for those who have been quick to remind him of the country’s barren run in friendlies since he took the job.

“I keep reading these really positive stats from people that go back to 1966... that we haven’t won a friendly since then or something,” he said.

“Trust me, I wasn’t manager back then. I think we should celebrate that we are going to the Euros, rather than dredge these things up.”