Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland won't be home before the postcards: Jonny Evans

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland star Jonny Evans has declared that the team have no intention of going home early from the Euro 2016 finals after arriving in France for the tournament.

Manager Michael O'Neill, his coaching staff, 23 players and Irish FA officials touched down in Lyon yesterday to begin an historic journey that they hope and believe will last beyond the group stages.

The campaign kicks off on Sunday in Nice against Poland, our first match in the European Championship finals, followed by Ukraine in Lyon on Thursday week and World champions Germany in Paris on June 21.

While the tens of thousands of Northern Ireland supporters bound for France over the next fortnight are confident their heroes will progress, most neutrals are tipping O'Neill's side to exit in the opening phase.

West Brom defender Evans, who knows all about big time games in Europe with former side Manchester United in the Champions League, insists the Group C underdogs won't be home before the postcards.

"It was surreal when we got into our base camp. That's when it started to hit a few of the lads how big a thing this is," said Evans. "It's nice to unpack our suitcases and settle in one place and I hope all the lads embrace it.

"Hopefully we'll be here longer than we're booked in for. That's our plan."

O'Neill's side will enter the tournament with the longest unbeaten run of any of the 24 competing countries, having taken their undefeated record to 12 matches in a 0-0 draw away to Slovakia on Saturday night when Aaron Hughes became the first outfield player to win 100 caps.

The 36-year-old from Cookstown received a round of applause when he boarded the flight from Slovakia to France yesterday. O'Neill will take his first training session with the squad in Lyon today.

Full story: Jonny Evans keen for Northern Ireland to prove staying power at Euro 2016

Belfast Telegraph