Gareth McAuley’s own goal against Wales will surely be forgotten by the Green and White Army after the big Larne man became a Northern Ireland legend during the Euro 2016 tournament.
Faced with a split-second decision when Gareth Bale’s tantalising cross was whipped in from the left, McAuley, with Hal Robson-Kanu breathing down his neck, turned the ball into his own net. It was enough for Chris Coleman’s side to progress to the quarter-finals.
It was an instinctive attempt to deal with the danger created by the most expensive player on the planet, but it by no means cancelled out just how well the West Brom defender performed in France. In fact, he and the other defenders proved key to Michael O’Neill’s side’s progress to the round of 16.
McAuley’s Baggies team-mate Jonny Evans hardly put a foot wrong and Craig Cathcart continues to grow in stature. And the experienced Aaron Hughes was a cool head at right-back, going on to win his 103rd cap.
After the defeat to Wales, 36-year-old McAuley stressed: “I’m gutted the way it’s ended but worse things happen in life.” It’s a quote that puts everything that happened into perspective after what was a remarkable journey for NI.
The Gleno galactico gave us a moment to savour with his header in Lyon - and for that Northern Ireland fans will be forever grateful.