Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

Northern Ireland heroes of 1982 inspired Michael O'Neill - now he wants players to be icons for next generation

By Adrian Rutherford

Published 30/05/2016

George Best Belfast City Airport provide a water cannon spray as members of the Northern Ireland football squad join Manager Michael O'Neill as they leave Northern Ireland to take part in a training camp in Austria in advance of the 2016 Euros.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 30th May 2016 - Photo by William Cherry
George Best Belfast City Airport provide a water cannon spray as members of the Northern Ireland football squad join Manager Michael O'Neill as they leave Northern Ireland to take part in a training camp in Austria in advance of the 2016 Euros. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 30th May 2016 - Photo by William Cherry
Northern Ireland's captain Steven Davis pictured with airline captain Vladimir Korosec as they leave from George Best Belfast City Airport to take part in a training camp in Austria in advance of the 2016 Euros. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 30th May 2016 - Photo by William Cherry
Members of the Northern Ireland football squad join Manager Michael OÕNeill and Captain Steve Davis as they leave Northern Ireland from George Best Belfast City Airport to take part in a training camp in Austria before the 2016 Euros. Picture By: Arthur Allison. Pacemaker Press Belfast: Monday 30th May 2016:
Northern Ireland players pictured as they leave from George Best Belfast City Airport to take part in a training camp in Austria in advance of the 2016 Euros. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 30th May 2016 - Photo by William Cherry
Northern Ireland players pictured as they leave from George Best Belfast City Airport to take part in a training camp in Austria in advance of the 2016 Euros. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 30th May 2016 - Photo by William Cherry
Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty pictured as they leave from George Best Belfast City Airport to take part in a training camp in Austria in advance of the 2016 Euros. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 30th May 2016 - Photo by William Cherry
Northern Ireland's Paddy McNair pictured as they leave from George Best Belfast City Airport to take part in a training camp in Austria in advance of the 2016 Euros. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 30th May 2016 - Photo by William Cherry
Northern Ireland's Roy Carroll pictured as they leave from George Best Belfast City Airport to take part in a training camp in Austria in advance of the 2016 Euros. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 30th May 2016 - Photo by William Cherry
Northern Ireland's Aaron Hughes pictured as they leave from George Best Belfast City Airport to take part in a training camp in Austria in advance of the 2016 Euros. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 30th May 2016 - Photo by William Cherry
Members of the Northern Ireland football squad join Manager Michael OÕNeill and Captain Steve Davis as they leave Northern Ireland from George Best Belfast City Airport to take part in a training camp in Austria in advance of the 2016 Euros. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 30th May 2016 - Jamie Ward with members of the Northern Ireland football squad as they leave Northern Ireland from George Best Belfast City Airport to take part in a training camp in Austria in advance of the 2016 Euros. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 30th May 2016 - Members of the Northern Ireland football squad join Manager Michael OÕNeill and Captain Steve Davis as they leave Northern Ireland from George Best Belfast City Airport to take part in a training camp in Austria in advance of the 2016 Euros. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 30th May 2016 - Members of the Northern Ireland football squad join Manager Michael OÕNeill and Captain Steve Davis as they leave Northern Ireland from George Best Belfast City Airport to take part in a training camp in Austria in advance of the 2016 Euros. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 30th May 2016 - Manager Michael O'Neill leaves Northern Ireland from George Best Belfast City Airport to take part in a training camp in Austria in advance of the 2016 Euros. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 30th May 2016 - Members of the Northern Ireland football squad leave Northern Ireland from George Best Belfast City Airport to take part in a training camp in Austria in advance of the 2016 Euros. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 30th May 2016 - Members of the Northern Ireland football squad join Manager Michael OÕNeill and Captain Steve Davis as they leave Northern Ireland from George Best Belfast City Airport to take part in a training camp in Austria in advance of the 2016 Euros. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 30th May 2016 - Manager Michael OÕNeill leaves Northern Ireland from George Best Belfast City Airport to take part in a training camp in Austria in advance of the 2016 Euros. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Members of the Northern Ireland football squad join Manager Michael O'Neill as they leave Northern Ireland from George Best Belfast City Airport to take part in a training camp in Austria in advance of the 2016 Euros. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Members of the Northern Ireland football squad join Manager Michael OÕNeill and Captain Steve Davis as they leave Northern Ireland from George Best Belfast City Airport to take part in a training camp in Austria in advance of the 2016 Euros. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Members of the Northern Ireland football squad join Manager Michael O'Neill as they leave the Culloden Hotel to take part in a training camp in Austria in advance of the 2016 Euros. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 30th May 2016 - Photo by William Cherry
Members of the Northern Ireland football squad join Manager Michael O'Neill as they leave the Culloden Hotel to take part in a training camp in Austria in advance of the 2016 Euros. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 30th May 2016 - Photo by William Cherry
Fans watch manager Michael O'Neill making the squad announcement. Photo: Kelvin Boyes
IFA Squad announcement at Titanic Belfast. Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Manager Michael O'Neil making the squad announcement. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 28th May 2016 - Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye. IFA Squad announcement at Titanic Belfast. In what is being hailed as one of the most significant events in local sporting history, Northern Ireland have qualified for UEFA Euro 2016 due to take place in France next month. Manager Michael OÕNeil is pictured making the squad announcement.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 28th May 2016 - Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye. IFA Squad announcement at Titanic Belfast. In what is being hailed as one of the most significant events in local sporting history, Northern Ireland have qualified for UEFA Euro 2016 due to take place in France next month. Manager Michael OÕNeil is pictured making the squad announcement.
PACEMAKER BELFAST 28/05/2016 Northern Ireland manager Michael ONeill announces his squad for Euro 2016 in France at Titanic Belfast this afternoon. Photo Mark Marlow/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 28/05/2016 Northern Ireland manager Michael ONeill announces his squad for Euro 2016 in France at Titanic Belfast this afternoon. Photo Mark Marlow/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 28/05/2016 Northern Ireland manager Michael ONeill announces his squad for Euro 2016 in France at Titanic Belfast this afternoon. Pictured is Colin Murray. Photo Mark Marlow/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 28/05/2016 Northern Ireland manager Michael ONeill announces his squad for Euro 2016 in France at Titanic Belfast this afternoon. Pictured are Northern Ireland legends Peter McParland, Pat Genninings and Billy Hamilton. Photo Mark Marlow/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 28/05/2016 Northern Ireland manager Michael ONeill announces his squad for Euro 2016 in France at Titanic Belfast this afternoon. Pictured is Colin Murray. Photo Mark Marlow/Pacemaker Press
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 28th May 2016 - Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye. IFA Squad announcement at Titanic Belfast. In what is being hailed as one of the most significant events in local sporting history, Northern Ireland have qualified for UEFA Euro 2016 due to take place in France next month. Manager Michael OÕNeil is pictured making the squad announcement.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 28th May 2016 - Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye. IFA Squad announcement at Titanic Belfast. In what is being hailed as one of the most significant events in local sporting history, Northern Ireland have qualified for UEFA Euro 2016 due to take place in France next month. Manager Michael OÕNeil.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 28th May 2016 - Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye. IFA Squad announcement at Titanic Belfast. In what is being hailed as one of the most significant events in local sporting history, Northern Ireland have qualified for UEFA Euro 2016 due to take place in France next month. Fans watch Manager Michael OÕNeil making the squad announcement.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 28th May 2016 - Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye. IFA Squad announcement at Titanic Belfast. In what is being hailed as one of the most significant events in local sporting history, Northern Ireland have qualified for UEFA Euro 2016 due to take place in France next month. Fans watch Manager Michael OÕNeil making the squad announcement.
IFA Squad announcement at Titanic Belfast. Manager Michael O'Neill is pictured making the squad announcement. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 28th May 2016 - Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye. IFA Squad announcement at Titanic Belfast. In what is being hailed as one of the most significant events in local sporting history, Northern Ireland have qualified for UEFA Euro 2016 due to take place in France next month. Manager Michael OÕNeil is pictured with his family before making the squad announcement.
Northern Ireland football legends Peter McParland, Pat Jennings and Billy Hamilton at the squad announcement. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Northern Ireland fans display a banner before the International Friendly at Windsor Park, Belfast. Pic Niall Carson
Will Grigg. Pic kevin Scott
Matthew,Chris,Robyn and Richard Knox from Lisburn watching Northern Ireland and Belarus during Friday night's Vauxhall Friendly International match at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 27th May 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Sports Minister Paul Givan MLA pictured at the National Stadium, Windsor Park with Northern Ireland President Jim Shaw. The Minister wished the Northern Ireland team every success as they continue their preparations for the European Championship Finals in France.
Northern Ireland's Conor Washington (left) celebrates with team-mate Kyle Lafferty (centre) after scoring his side's second goal during the International Friendly at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday May 27, 2016. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only, No commercial use without prior permission, please contact PA Images for further information: Tel: +44 (0) 115 8447447.
Northern Ireland's Stuart Dallas (left) and Belarus' Nikolai Yanush battle for the ball during the International Friendly at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday May 27, 2016. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only, No commercial use without prior permission, please contact PA Images for further information: Tel: +44 (0) 115 8447447.
Northern Ireland's Conor Washington (11) celebrates with his team-mates after scoring his side's second goal during the International Friendly at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday May 27, 2016. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only, No commercial use without prior permission, please contact PA Images for further information: Tel: +44 (0) 115 8447447.
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - MAY 27: Conor Washington (R) of Northern Ireland scores during the international friendly game between Northern Ireland and Belarus on May 26, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - MAY 27: Conor Washington of Northern Ireland celebrates after scoring during the international friendly game between Northern Ireland and Belarus on May 26, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - MAY 27: Conor Washington (R) of Northern Ireland scores during the international friendly game between Northern Ireland and Belarus on May 26, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Conor Washington of Northern Ireland celebrates after scoring during the international friendly game between Northern Ireland and Belarus on May 26, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - MAY 27: Conor Washington of Northern Ireland celebrates after scoring during the international friendly game between Northern Ireland and Belarus on May 26, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - MAY 27: Conor Washington of Northern Ireland celebrates after scoring during the international friendly game between Northern Ireland and Belarus on May 26, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - MAY 27: Conor Washington of Northern Ireland celebrates after scoring during the international friendly game between Northern Ireland and Belarus on May 26, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - MAY 27: Conor Washington of Northern Ireland celebrates after scoring during the international friendly game between Northern Ireland and Belarus on May 26, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Conor Washington of Northern Ireland celebrates after scoring during the international friendly game between Northern Ireland and Belarus on May 26, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill during the International Friendly at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday May 27, 2016. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only, No commercial use without prior permission, please contact PA Images for further information: Tel: +44 (0) 115 8447447.
Belarus' Igor Shitov (left) and Northern Ireland's Stuart Dallas battle for the ball during the International Friendly at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday May 27, 2016. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only, No commercial use without prior permission, please contact PA Images for further information: Tel: +44 (0) 115 8447447.
Northern Ireland's fans celebrate the second goal against Belarus during an international friendly football match between Northern Ireland and Belarus at Windsor Park in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on May 27, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty rues a missed chance during the International Friendly at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday May 27, 2016. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only, No commercial use without prior permission, please contact PA Images for further information: Tel: +44 (0) 115 8447447.
Northern Ireland's Conor Washington (R) celebrates after scoring the team's second goal against Belarus during an international friendly football match between Northern Ireland and Belarus at Windsor Park in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on May 27, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
Northern Ireland's Conor Washington celebrates after scoring the team's second goal against Belarus during an international friendly football match between Northern Ireland and Belarus at Windsor Park in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on May 27, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
Northern Ireland's Conor Washington (left) and Belarus' Nikita Korzun battle for the ball during the International Friendly at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday May 27, 2016. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only, No commercial use without prior permission, please contact PA Images for further information: Tel: +44 (0) 115 8447447.
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - MAY 27: Kyle Lafferty of Northern Ireland celebrates after scoring during the international friendly game between Northern Ireland and Belarus on May 26, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - MAY 27: Conor Washington (L) of Northern Ireland and Mikita Korzun (R) of Belarus during the international friendly game between Northern Ireland and Belarus on May 26, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast , UK - May 27, Pictured is Northern Irelands Paddy McNair and Belarus' Siarhei Krivets in action during the last home game before heading to the Euros on May 27 2016 in Belfast , Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye)
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast , UK - May 27, Pictured is Northern Irelands Amy and Callum Lister from Belfast in action during the last home game before heading to the Euros on May 27 2016 in Belfast , Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye)
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast , UK - May 27, Pictured is Northern Irelands Score 1-0 vs Belarus in action during the last home game before heading to the Euros on May 27 2016 in Belfast , Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye)
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast , UK - May 27, Pictured is Northern Irelands Score 1-0 vs Belarus in action during the last home game before heading to the Euros on May 27 2016 in Belfast , Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye)
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast , UK - May 27, Pictured is Northern Irelands Roy Carroll celebrating in action during the last home game before heading to the Euros on May 27 2016 in Belfast , Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye)
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast , UK - May 27, Pictured is Northern Irelands Roy Carroll celebrating in action during the last home game before heading to the Euros on May 27 2016 in Belfast , Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye)
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast , UK - May 27, Pictured is Northern Irelands XXX and Belarus' YYY in action during the last home game before heading to the Euros on May 27 2016 in Belfast , Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye)
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast , UK - May 27, Pictured is Northern Irelands XXX and Belarus' YYY in action during the last home game before heading to the Euros on May 27 2016 in Belfast , Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye)
Pacemaker Belfast 27-5-16 Northern Ireland v Belarus - International Friendly Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty celebrates his goal during tonight's game at Windsor Park, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 27-5-16 Northern Ireland v Belarus - International Friendly Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty celebrates his goal during tonight's game at Windsor Park, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 27-5-16 Northern Ireland v Belarus - International Friendly Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty celebrates his goal during tonight's game at Windsor Park, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 27-5-16 Northern Ireland v Belarus - International Friendly Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty celebrates his goal during tonight's game at Windsor Park, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 27-5-16 Northern Ireland v Belarus - International Friendly Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty celebrates his goal during tonight's game at Windsor Park, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 27-5-16 Northern Ireland v Belarus - International Friendly Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty celebrates his goal during tonight's game at Windsor Park, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 27th May 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Sports Minister Paul Givan MLA pictured at the National Stadium, Windsor Park with Northern Ireland President Jim Shaw. The Minister wished the Northern Ireland team every success as they continue their preparations for the European Championship Finals in France.
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast , UK - May 27, Pictured is Northern Irelands Luke McCullough and Belarus' Siarhei Kisliak in action during the last home game before heading to the Euros on May 27 2016 in Belfast , Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye)
PACEMAKER BELFAST 27/05/2016 Northern Ireland v Belarus Friendly International Belarus fan during this evenings Friendly International at Windsor park. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 27-5-16 Northern Ireland v Belarus - International Friendly Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty and Belarus Alyaksandr Martynovich (Captain) during tonight's game at Windsor Park, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 27-5-16 Northern Ireland v Belarus - International Friendly Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty and Belarus Egor Filipenko during tonight's game at Windsor Park, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 27-5-16 Northern Ireland v Belarus - International Friendly Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty and Belarus Egor Filipenko during tonight's game at Windsor Park, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 27-5-16 Northern Ireland v Belarus - International Friendly Northern Ireland's Paddy McNair during tonight's game at Windsor Park, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 27-5-16 Northern Ireland v Belarus - International Friendly Northern Ireland's Paddy McNair during tonight's game at Windsor Park, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 27th May 2016 Mandatory Credit -Brian Little/Presseye Northern Ireland Kyle Lafferty scores a goal past Belarus goal keeper Andrei Harbunov during Friday night's Vauxhall Friendly International match at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 27th May 2016 Mandatory Credit -Brian Little/Presseye Northern Ireland Stuart Dallas and Belarus Mikhail Hardzeichuk during Friday night's Vauxhall Friendly International match at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 27th May 2016 Mandatory Credit -Brian Little/Presseye Northern Ireland Stuart Dallas and Belarus Ihar Shitau during Friday night's Vauxhall Friendly International match at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 27th May 2016 Mandatory Credit -Brian Little/Presseye Northern Ireland Steven Davis and Belarus Nikita Korzun during Friday night's Vauxhall Friendly International match at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 27th May 2016 Mandatory Credit -Brian Little/Presseye Northern Ireland Chris Baird and Belarus Maksim Valadzko during Friday night's Vauxhall Friendly International match at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast , UK - May 27, Pictured is Northern Irelands Roy Carroll in action during the friendly between Northern Ireland and Belarus as the last home game before heading to the Euros on May 27 2016 in Belfast , Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye)
@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 27th May 2016 Mandatory Credit -Brian Little/Presseye Northern Ireland Kyle Lafferty challenged by Belarus Ihar Shitau and Mikhail Hardzeichuk during Friday night's Vauxhall Friendly International match at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast , UK - May 27, Pictured is Northern Irelands Roy Carroll in action during the friendly between Northern Ireland and Belarus as the last home game before heading to the Euros on May 27 2016 in Belfast , Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye)
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 27th May 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Sports Minister Paul Givan MLA pictured at the National Stadium, Windsor Park with Northern Ireland Legends Pat Jennings and Sammy McIlroy. The Minister wished the Northern Ireland team every success as they continue their preparations for the European Championship Finals in France.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 27th May 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Sports Minister Paul Givan MLA pictured at the National Stadium, Windsor Park with Northern Ireland Legend Pat Jennings. The Minister wished the Northern Ireland team every success as they continue their preparations for the European Championship Finals in France.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 27th May 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Sports Minister Paul Givan MLA pictured at the National Stadium, Windsor Park with Northern Ireland Legends Pat Jennings and Sammy McIlroy. The Minister wished the Northern Ireland team every success as they continue their preparations for the European Championship Finals in France.
Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty celebrates his goal during tonight's game at Windsor Park, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast , UK - May 27, Pictured is Northern Irelands Windsor Park in action during the last home game before heading to the Euros on May 27 2016 in Belfast , Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye)
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast , UK - May 27, Pictured is Northern Irelands Windsor Park in action during the last home game before heading to the Euros on May 27 2016 in Belfast , Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye)
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast , UK - May 27, Pictured is Northern Irelands Amy and Callum Lister from Belfast in action during the last home game before heading to the Euros on May 27 2016 in Belfast , Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye)
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast , UK - May 27, Pictured is Northern Irelands Andy and Micky Longstaff from Crumlin in action during the last home game before heading to the Euros on May 27 2016 in Belfast , Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye)
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 27th May 2016 Vauxhall International Challenge Match Northern Ireland Vs Belarus at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park, Belfast. Left to right. Flag bearers Sara Lockhead, Benjamin Jackson and Jody Burns. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast , UK - May 27, Pictured is Northern Irelands Windsor Park in action during the last home game before heading to the Euros on May 27 2016 in Belfast , Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye)
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast , UK - May 27, Pictured is Northern Irelands Heather and Keith Cassell with Kate Turner in action during the last home game before heading to the Euros on May 27 2016 in Belfast , Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye)
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast , UK - May 27, Pictured is Northern Irelands Simon and Martin Thompson with Jeff Patterson in action during the last home game before heading to the Euros on May 27 2016 in Belfast , Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye)
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 27th May 2016 Vauxhall International Challenge Match Northern Ireland Vs Belarus at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park, Belfast. Left to right. Flag bearers Jody Burns, Alex Corr, Sara Lockhead and Benjamin Jackson Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast , UK - May 27, Pictured is Northern Irelands Graeme Beggs and family in action during the last home game before heading to the Euros on May 27 2016 in Belfast , Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye)
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast , UK - May 27, Pictured is Northern Irelands David and Adam Orr in action during the last home game before heading to the Euros on May 27 2016 in Belfast , Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye)
@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 27th May 2016 Mandatory Credit -Brian Little/Presseye George Emerson with his son Cameron aged 14 from Bangor watching Northern Ireland and Belarus during Friday night's Vauxhall Friendly International match at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 27th May 2016 Mandatory Credit -Brian Little/Presseye Jennifer Simpson and Kathleen Graham from Newtownabbey watching Northern Ireland and Belarus during Friday night's Vauxhall Friendly International match at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 27th May 2016 Mandatory Credit -Brian Little/Presseye Darren Hamill and son Scott, aged 10, from Lisburn watching Northern Ireland and Belarus during Friday night's Vauxhall Friendly International match at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
A Northern Ireland fan in the stands before the International Friendly at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday May 27, 2016. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only, No commercial use without prior permission, please contact PA Images for further information: Tel: +44 (0) 115 8447447.
A Northern Ireland fan in the stands before the International Friendly at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday May 27, 2016. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only, No commercial use without prior permission, please contact PA Images for further information: Tel: +44 (0) 115 8447447.
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - MAY 27: A Northern Ireland fan poses with a green beret before the international friendly game between Northern Ireland and Belarus on May 26, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Northern Ireland fans in the stands before the International Friendly at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday May 27, 2016. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only, No commercial use without prior permission, please contact PA Images for further information: Tel: +44 (0) 115 8447447.
Northern Ireland fans in the stands before the International Friendly at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday May 27, 2016. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only, No commercial use without prior permission, please contact PA Images for further information: Tel: +44 (0) 115 8447447.
Northern Ireland's Chris Baird before the International Friendly at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday May 27, 2016. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only, No commercial use without prior permission, please contact PA Images for further information: Tel: +44 (0) 115 8447447.
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - MAY 27: Northern Ireland's Paddy McNair high-fives some fans before the international friendly game between Northern Ireland and Belarus on May 26, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - MAY 27: Northern Ireland's Paddy McNair high-fives some fans before the international friendly game between Northern Ireland and Belarus on May 26, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - MAY 27: Belarus players take a stroll on the pitch before the international friendly game between Northern Ireland and Belarus on May 26, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - MAY 27: Northern Ireland players pictured before the international friendly game between Northern Ireland and Belarus on May 26, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - MAY 27: Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty (L) and Stuart Dallas (R) pose with fans before the international friendly game between Northern Ireland and Belarus on May 26, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - MAY 27: Belarus players take a stroll on the pitch before the international friendly game between Northern Ireland and Belarus on May 26, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - MAY 27: Northern Ireland players pictured before the international friendly game between Northern Ireland and Belarus on May 26, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Michael O'Neill believes Northern Ireland's Euro 2016-bound footballers can inspire a generation - just as he was by the heroes of '82.

He's also proud that the team "is a really strong reflection of the society we live in now" and said everyone can unite behind it.

O'Neill revealed how, as a teenager, he dreamt of playing for his country after being gripped by the exploits of Gerry Armstrong, Billy Hamilton and others at the World Cup in Spain.

He went on to make 31 appearances in the famous green and white jersey.

Now he is just days away from leading out Northern Ireland at their first major tournament for three decades.

The squad flies out of Belfast today ahead of their opening Euro 2016 game against Poland on Sunday week.

O'Neill has urged his players to write their legacies in the coming days, and become heroes for a new generation.

"I just hope that every young player that is born in Northern Ireland and plays football aspires to play for Northern Ireland," he said.

"Hopefully with the success that we've had and this team, it inspires that.

"We have players who are now 12, 13 and 14 - the way I was in 1982, which inspired me to come and play for Northern Ireland.

"There's no better way to do that than [by] qualification and success at a tournament."

The players fly out today for a pre-tournament training camp in Austria, before arriving in France on Sunday. Their opening game takes place a week later, against the Poles in Nice on June 12.

More than 40,000 fans are expected to travel for the tournament. These are exciting times for the national side, whose last major tournament was the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. O'Neill believes it is an opportunity for the whole country to unite behind the team.

He has previously spoken about his own experiences of playing at a time when violence raged and football here was another source of division.

Today, though, he believes he leads a team which truly represents society.

"When I played in the Northern Ireland team, the team was always together as well - there was never any issues with that," he added.

"It was maybe different times in Northern Ireland then but certainly, as Northern Ireland is now, this team is a really strong reflection of the society we live in now."

He added: "The relationship between the players and supporters is stronger than maybe it's ever been."

O'Neill was speaking after revealing the 23 players who will be in his squad for the Euros.

The iconic Titanic Belfast was the venue for the announcement.

O'Neill, flanked by his wife Bronagh, was given a standing ovation as he arrived.

The Irish Football Association commissioned a spectacular video presentation, with players' faces projected on to the Giants Causeway.

The spine-tingling footage had been secretly filmed late at night a month ago. Footage was also shown of Northern Ireland's greatest footballing moments.

Images of a young Michael O'Neill finding the net drew loud cheers.

The audience included a member of each of Northern Ireland's three previous World Cup squads - Peter McParland, Pat Jennings and Billy Hamilton.

O'Neill said his current squad have the chance to write their names into history.

"The hard work has been done in terms of qualification but now is the chance to create a real legacy," he added.

"Watching the footage of the previous tournaments - to see Northern Ireland in 1982 was amazing," he said.

"Those memories of World Cups and major championships live with you for ever.

"The opportunity is there for our players to write their own memories and create their own history - let the dream continue."

The squad jets off from Belfast City Airport this morning for a training camp in Austria, before a final warm-up game against Slovakia on Saturday.

Belfast Telegraph

Your Comments

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Read More