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Michael O'Neill has no major concerns over Kyle Lafferty fitness

Published 08/06/2016

Kyle Lafferty went down injured on Tuesday at training
Kyle Lafferty went down injured on Tuesday at training

Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill does not expect Kyle Lafferty's fitness to become an issue ahead of their Euro 2016 opener against Poland, even though the forward limped out of training on Tuesday.

Lafferty, who evolved into his country's talisman with seven goals in qualification, sustained a groin problem in a public training session in France on Tuesday, causing a huge scare just five days before they face the Poles in Nice.

Having been in clear discomfort while he lay on the pitch, Lafferty then eventually limped off and withdrew from the remainder of the session in Saint-Georges-de-Reneins to be assessed by Northern Ireland's medical team.

However, at the conclusion of training, O'Neill attempted to quash any fears his key striker could have picked up a significant injury before the tournament had even started.

"It's fine, it's precautionary, we have no major concerns there," he stated.

"It's a little twist, but on examination we don't expect any major issues at all. We're just being careful, we're more concerned about the thunder and lightning, to be honest!"

Confirming it was a groin problem, O'Neill added: "He just twisted it a little bit there when he slipped, the pitch is hard. Those little situations are always liable to happen, no major concerns there at all."

Around 500 locals were present to see the Group C team prepare for Sunday's clash in the French sunshine just north of Lyon and many spectators in the stands were waving green flags.

Defender Craig Cathcart did not participate with the main group they saw, though, and he was spotted working on a bike off the pitch having come off against Slovakia on Friday night with a back problem.

Concerns over Cathcart and Lafferty may therefore linger for the remainder of this week, yet striker Conor Washington insisted the squad are expecting the latter to be fine.

"I didn't really see it, it was in the middle of possession so it was pretty frantic anyway," he said of Lafferty's injury.

"We're all led to believe that he's okay. As soon as you take a little knock in training you want to step out and assess it. I think he should be fine."

Former postman Washington may have been pencilled in for a starting spot alongside Lafferty in attack anyway having impressed since been called up to O'Neill's squad for the first time in March.

Like the rest of Northern Ireland's squad, he was watching Euro 2012 on television four years ago, provided the day job did not get in the way.

"I was being a postman most of the time and then during the tournament it would have been like a pre-season for me," he said.

"I would have been working, going to the gym, playing golf and getting myself ready for the new season then watching the games if I could stay up that late. There were some early mornings!

"It's very surreal thought to think back four years ago to where I am now."

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