Larne’s Gareth McAuley hailed as ‘King of Lyon’ after historic NI victory

Man of the Match Gareth McAuley after NI's second Euro 2016 game against Ukraine at the Stade de Lyon, France.  Press Eye pic

Man of the Match Gareth McAuley after NI's second Euro 2016 game against Ukraine at the Stade de Lyon, France. Press Eye pic

Larne man Gareth McAuley has cemented his place in history as a local sporting legend, after he helped Northern Ireland secure their first ever win at a European Championships.

McAuley’s powerful 49th-minute header and Niall McGinn’s close-range finish deep into stoppage time sealed an unexpected victory over Ukraine at the Stade de Lyon last night.

It also revived Northern Ireland’s hopes of progressing to the competition’s knockout stages from the competitive Group C.

The 36-year-old, a former pupil of Larne Grammar School, was also named the official Man of the Match for his efforts. The big defender has now become the second oldest ever goalscorer at a European Championships.

Following the historic victory in Lyon, social media exploded into a chorus of praise for Michael O’Neill’s side, with local hero McAuley first in line for the plaudits.

Bursting with pride, Larne Grammar School took to Twitter to pay tribute to one of its most successful sporting alumni, posting: “It’s a good thing that @G23mcauley ignored Mr Snoddy’s advice to play rugby rather than football! Worked out nicely!”

Meanwhile, Larne High School also expressed its joy, tweeting: “We hereby declare this day to be ‘Gareth McAuley’ day.”

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Gareth McAuley admits Northern Ireland answered their critics with Lyon triumph