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McAuley: It's back to business

15 October 2015

Northern Ireland man reflects on emotional week

GARETH McAuley was back at the training ground this week - buoyed by Northern Ireland's 'incredible' success, but ready for the return to Barclays Premier League action.
The defender was part of a Northern Ireland team that qualified for their first major tournament since 1986.
But Euro 2016 is on hold for now. This weekend is all about Sunderland.


McAuley said: 
"What we did last week has gone. 
"I'm back here now, back on the training pitch, hoping to get a positive result. 
"This is a massive game for us and we'll be looking to put things right after two poor results and performances we weren't happy about."


Understandably, thoughts inevitably turn back to Northern Ireland's impressive feat - they finished top of Group F, winning six and drawing three of their 10 games.
"It's been an incredible week. It's still difficult to find the right words - I'd say 'emotional' is probably the best way to to describe it.
"It's still a bit of a blur - you see pictures...and what an achievement it was for the lads to get through, the courage they showed, to play the way we did, and under pressure too. We knew we had to deliver. 
"Thankfully we were able to do that. The reaction was something else."


This achievement is one Northern Ireland need to build on - it's as much about the future, as this most recent success - claims McAuley.
"Coming through the airport in Finland it was just green-and-white everywhere. People were so happy, so delighted. It was incredible and yet I think that was only the start of it. 
"There will be so much to look forward to, so much excitement back home, there's going to be so much going on.
"Hopefully it can leave a legacy for the future generations of players. 
"In our lifetimes we've never experienced anything like this. I'm too young to remember (Mexico) 86 but I've got memorabilia from there and it's very vague.
"Hopefully it won't be that long again and we can get ignite football in the country. It's a big injection of money too which will hopefully help bring through players but it will be good for the country."


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