Belfast Telegraph

Daniel Lafferty relishing shot at the big guns

By Rory Dollard

Northern Ireland defender Daniel Lafferty is preparing to face some of the world's best attacking talent this week and hopes for more of the same with Burnley next season.

Michael O'Neill's side take on Uruguay in Montevideo, pitting Lafferty and company against a side missing the injured Luis Suarez but led by Paris St Germain star Edinson Cavani, before heading to Chile – and Barcelona's Alexis Sanchez – on June 4.

With both opponents making their final tune-ups for the World Cup it promises to be a tough ask of a depleted Northern Ireland, but Lafferty is eager to meet it head on.

"Where do you start with teams like Uruguay and Chile? No matter what side they put out they possess unbelievable quality and they draw their players from the top clubs throughout Europe and South America," he said.

"They're going to the World Cup and they're going all out to prepare for that so it will be a phenomenal experience and one I was never going to pull out of.

"It's a massive opportunity, maybe a once-in-a-career chance.

"When you play against nations like these – or Portugal and Russia in the last campaign – you can test your wits against the best and that helps going back to your club when the manager sees that."

When the 25-year-old Lafferty does head back to Turf Moor it will be with a brand new three-year contract and the prospect of Premier League football following the Clarets' promotion.

Although the left-back was far from a driving force in that campaign, making just 12 appearances in all competitions and none since January, manager Sean Dyche's decision to tie him to the club until 2017 was a show of faith.

"I'm not sure if the reality of playing in the Premier League has fully sunk in yet," he said.

"I'll be pinching myself when I do. To walk out at Old Trafford or Anfield would be unbelievable considering where I was three years ago. It will be an amazing experience to get the chance of playing in those kind of arenas against some top-class opponents."

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