O’Neill hails ‘perfect night’ for NI

NI manager Michael O'Neill enjoys a moment of contemplation after a rousing send-off at Windsor Park

Media playback is not supported on this device

NI manager Michael O’Neill was pleased with his players’ versatility

Michael O’Neill said Northern Ireland’s Euro 2016 send-off at Windsor Park “couldn’t have gone any better” as his side defeated Belarus 3-0.

Kyle Lafferty’s sixth-minute goal settled the Northern Irish as Conor Washington and in-form Wigan striker Will Grigg added to the lead.

“It was a perfect night for us,” said the Northern Ireland boss, who picked out Paddy McNair for particular praise.

“The substitutions we made didn’t affect the shape of the team.”


Media playback is not supported on this device

Northern Ireland enjoyed the perfect send-off to Euro 2016 by beating Belarus 3-0

Grigg repays O’Neill’s faith with goal

O’Neill appears to have plumped for Grigg over Liam Boyce as one of his attacking options for the French trip and the Wigan man emphasised his current confidence as he slammed in Northern Ireland’s third goal four minutes from time.

“Will Grigg has been very patient. He has been in a lot of squads up to now and sat on a lot of benches,” added the Northern Ireland boss.

“He’s had a great season with Wigan and he’s going into the Championship next year.

“But there were a number of great performances. I thought Paddy McNair was outstanding throughout. What we got tonight was fantastic.”

O’Neill opted to employ a 3-5-2 formation in Friday’s game and was delighted with the results.

“We’ve trying to get flexibility within this team. We also asked Jonny Evans to go left-back in the last 20 minutes and we asked Stuart Dallas to play slightly out of position.

“They just do a great job for us.”


Michael O’Neill’s squad announcement on Saturday is unlikely to include any surprises

O’Neill’s mind made up on Euro 2016 squad

O’Neill will officially announce his 23-man squad on Saturday with Boyce, Daniel Lafferty, Billy McKay, Ben Reeves and Michael Smith to be the players who have missed out.

None of those five were involved in Friday’s game and O’Neill told BBC Sport NI that he had broken the news to the players not required for the tournament earlier this week.

“The five lads that were with us made a very big contribution and they will be disappointed to miss out.

“Unfortunately you have to whittle it down to 23 but all of those players have an international career ahead of them and come September, they will certainly be on the radar.”

Veteran defender Aaron Hughes came on in the second half for his 99th cap in the closing stages and could make his 100th appearance in the final warm-up game in Slovakia next Saturday.

“He doesn’t want caps just given to him but Aaron is still a big asset to me and will have a big role to play in France.”

comments powered by Disqus