SLIDESHOW: Local NI fans out in force in France

Ballymena-based NI fans Tim Agnew and Steven Taylor in Nice.
Ballymena-based NI fans Tim Agnew and Steven Taylor in Nice.

It was the moment that a generation of football supporters from the Ballymena had waited for, perhaps believing it would never happen.

When Cullybackey’s Steven Davis led the Northern Ireland football team onto the field for their opening European Championship match against Poland, it marked the realisation of a dream for the country’s fans.

There was a strong contingent from the Ballymena area among the bumper turnout of the Green and White Army as Northern Ireland played their first match in a major tournament finals since 1986.

Flags denoting groups of fans from Ballymena, Cullybackey, Clough and Cloughmills were among those visible within the stadium in Nice as the game kicked off.

Many of those fans have travelled via land, sea and air - sometimes by the most circuitous routes - to be in France to witness a moment of footballing history.

And while the 1-0 defeat at the hands of Poland wasn’t the result that Northern Ireland and its fans had hoped for from their opening game, the clear indication from those present was that it had been a truly memorable occasion.