Michael McGovern was in fine form for Northern Ireland over the two legged World Cup play off against Switzerland but there was little he could do to prevent what was to be a controversial decisive goal at the National Stadium at Windsor Park as Northern Ireland’s World Cup dream was ended.
A Rodriguez penalty in the first leg which was given for a handball when the ball clearly struck Corry Evans on the back, ultimately decided the outcome of the tie.
Northern Ireland pushed hard to cancel out the goal in the away leg in Basel on Sunday but it was not to be for Michael O’Neill and his side.
McGovern admits that the manner of the defeat was disappointing but he says that they just have to move on from it.
“It was disappointing but we just have to accept it and just move on. As much as it is frustrating, we can’t change the fact that we lost through that penalty, we just have to get on with it,” he commented.
McGovern accepts that Northern Ireland never really got going in the first leg but he felt they were much better in Switzerland as they looked to get back in the tie.
“I don’t think we played well at all at home but I thought we played better in Basel. I thought we were excellent on Sunday but if you flip that, Switzerland will probably say that they didn’t play all that well on Sunday but they played well in Belfast. That’s just football, you can’t play well every single game. We were disappointed with our performance in the first game but sometimes that happens,” he said.
Michael O’Neill’s reputation has continually grown over the last couple of years and it has been speculated that he may opt to move on from the Northern Ireland post. Unsurprisingly, McGovern hopes that O’Neill stays put.
“Michael has done a fantastic job and all the players are really fond of him, we just hope that we can keep him and all the players together now. The last time I seen he was still the manager and there has been no approaches as far as I have seen. There is bound to speculation given how well the team has done over the last few years and that’s a compliment to himself and all the players.
“He has been fantastic for me in my career. He gave me the opportunity to fulfil one of my goals which was to be number one keeper for my country and I’ve had the opportunity to play in some wonderful games and experienced some fantastic occasions and he gave me the opportunity to do that,” added Michael.
Indeed, McGovern is also hoping that some of the older players in the squad also decide to hang about for the next Euro qualifying campaign.
“We would love them all to stay and keep the whole group together but it is a personal decision for each of the lads who are thinking of retiring and we will respect whatever decision they make. If they decide to call it a day then they have all been fantastic servants to Northern Ireland and they can do as they please because of what they have done for their country,” said the former Enniskillen Town player.
And he feels that if they can stay together then they can continue to push on. 
“We just have to hope that the team stays together and if we can do that then there is no reason why we can’t qualify for the next Euros. There seems to be a good bit of momentum over the last three years and the aim now is to keep that going,” he said.

The result may not have gone Northern Ireland’s way but Thursday’s first leg was an occasion to remember for two local children who were part of the mascot teams that walked out with the players before the game. 
Enda Love junior, a Year 8 pupil at Enniskillen Royal applied and was chosen as a mascot. 
At a familiarisation event, Enda found out that he would be wearing the Switzerland kit and was delighted to be paired with Northern Ireland captain, Steve Davis for this important game. Davis was also winning his 100th cap for Northern Ireland at the match. 
Young Enda described the occasion when he walked out onto the pitch as “totally awesome!” and is the third generation of the family involved in football.
His dad, Enda (senior) currently serves on the IFA’s senior council, a role he began almost 10 years ago. He was also following in the footsteps of his grandfather, the late Enda Love, long serving chairman of the Fermanagh and Western who had 33 years of service on the IFA senior council.
Also in the line up was 10-year-old Beth Adams from Fivemiletown Primary School. Beth won the opportunity when her mother Sandra entered a competition on instagram. Beth was chosen to walk out with the Switzerland team and entered the game with Arsenal star Granit Xhaka.