COMMENT: NI’s World Cup dream is alive and kicking

Northern Ireland Manager Michael O'Neill  celebrates with his Steve Davis and Jonny Evans after the win over Czech Republic
Northern Ireland Manager Michael O'Neill celebrates with his Steve Davis and Jonny Evans after the win over Czech Republic

I was only a lad when Northern Ireland made Spain ‘82 and Mexico ‘86.

Yes, I know who Billy Bingham, Pat Jennings, Gerry Armstrong, Norman Whiteside, Billy Hamilton, Sammy McIlroy and Martin O’Neill are (I was a lad - I wasn’t in a pram) and they are still legends to this day.

I also marvelled at the goal scoring exploits of David Healy and who will ever forget THAT strike against England? Not me.

But there have been several years of misery thrown in over the years and we have trundled on behind the team - hoping and praying that it would get better - then it did.

In 2016 we qualified for the Euro Finals (for the first time ever) in France and made the quarter-finals.

Surely now we would go through a few more years of despair and sob stories before we would make another set of finals.

But, no, after the success in France - Michael O’Neill’s men did not go to the bar to talk and gloat about the good old days.

No they kicked on and are now closing in on next summer’s World Cup Finals in Russia - yes there is still work to do but we are still in there swinging like a super-fit Carl Frampton.

O’Neill has built something and more importantly he knows what he is doing and we are reaping the benefits.

Will we make the Finals in Russia? Only time will tell - but we are in their fighting to the death. And no-one could ask for anymore?

As for the game - what a roar in the 28th minute as Jonny Evans made it 1-0 from a corner. Manchester City must be kicking themselves for missing the bargain of a lifetime.

If the noise was through the roof for the first goal it was in Dolby stereo for the second as Chris Brunt curled home a free-kick with his left foot.

The second half was all NI defending and the Czech’s looking to find their way past the home defence - they failed - and the Russian dream remains alive.