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McGovern takes hero´s jersey after greatest game

Northern Ireland goalkeeper Michael McGovern reflected on the performance of his life after his heroics against world champions Germany helped Northern Ireland into the last 16 of Euro 2016.

Recalled striker Mario Gomez scored the only goal in a 1-0 win for Joachim Low’s men but a string of brilliant stops from McGovern, due to be released from Hamilton Academical, preserved a goal-difference of zero for Northern Ireland, whose victory over Ukraine last time out gave them three points from the group stage.

Turkey’s 2-0 win over Czech Republic in Lens means Northern Ireland’s numbers are enough to guarantee a place among the four best third-place finishers – a position they would not be in if McGovern had not excelled himself to frustrate the likes of Thomas Muller, Mario Gotze and Gomez.

Asked whether the Parc des Princes witnessed him at his very best on Monday, he said: “Yeah, if you take into account the stage we’re on and the level of opposition I really enjoyed it.

“I enjoyed the challenge, I’ve enjoyed the other games as well. The tournament has been more than we could have imagined.

“I didn’t know before the tournament how I would feel before the games. Obviously they are big games. The first game and the second game we felt confident and relaxed – not one bit of nerves or butterflies in my stomach, which was unusual.

“I just did the best I could and was ready to give my best shot. If it wasn’t good enough it wasn’t good enough but I was confident in my ability to do well.”

A plunging save to keep out a Gomez header during the second half ranked as his finest moment in a stellar body of work for McGovern, who departed with a cherished memento.

“I got [Manuel] Neuer’s jersey after the game,” he revealed. “So that’s nice, obviously he’s a goalkeeper I look up to.

“He’s up there as the best in the world, definitely. He’s an amazing goalkeeper to be fair, I just love watching him. I watch games to watch him.”

McGovern was applauded back into the dressing room by his team-mates and is likely to have attracted admirers from elsewhere following his Parisian exploits.

The 31-year-old is out of contract at the end of this month and should not be short of suitors.

“In the last two years I’ve been playing in the Premier League in Scotland which has really taken me on to the next level,” he added

“I’m ambitious, I want to play at the highest level I can. It’s a nice position to be in [playing these games] when you’re going out of contract.

“My agent will sort that out and I’m sure games like tonight won’t do me any harm.”

Tue 21 Jun, 2016
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