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Belfast City Airport renamed after Northern Ireland striker Kyle Lafferty

Published 12/06/2016

Kyle Lafferty is set to start for Northern Ireland in Nice on Sunday night
Kyle Lafferty is set to start for Northern Ireland in Nice on Sunday night

Northern Ireland fans flying to Nice on Sunday for their Euro 2016 opener with Poland were departing from the temporarily renamed 'Kyle Lafferty Belfast City Airport'.

The airport is normally named after ex-Northern Ireland and Manchester United winger George Best, but to mark the country's first fixture at a major international tournament in 30 years on Sunday, the honour was bestowed upon striker Lafferty.

Signage was also placed at the airport featuring a picture of the 28-year-old smiling and holding his arms in the air.

"The excitement surrounding the Euros has been palpable around the airport since we gave the team that eye-catching green and white water canon salute as they departed," a spokesperson for the airport said.

"The City Airport is very much part of the fabric of the community and by renaming the airport for the day we are joining members of the Green and White Army at home and in France in sending a huge message of support to Kyle and his team-mates for the Euros.

"We also wanted to show our support for our airline partner Flybe, which is laying on special charters for Northern Ireland fans travelling to France for the matches.

"George Best was one of the greatest footballers the world has ever seen and we hope that this name change for the day will help inspire Kyle to glory against Poland and in the rest of the tournament.

"Who knows - we may see other major airports across Europe following suit and renaming in honour of one of their own footballing stars."

Lafferty was expected to start on Sunday evening against the Poles despite concerns over a groin injury he sustained in training earlier this week.

He and his international colleagues will head to the Stade de Nice inspired by a motivational message from golfer Rory McIlroy.

The four-time major winner recorded a speech for his compatriots which was played to Michael O'Neill's squad on the eve of their historic encounter in the south of France.

"Tomorrow you will write the next chapter in our long and famous sporting story," he said in the clip.

"When you walk out at that stadium in Nice, take a moment to think about our sporting icons, what they achieved, and how this is your chance to take your place alongside them.

"Feel the pride of what it means to represent your country with the world watching."

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