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Comeback kid: Goal hero Kyle Lafferty puts footballers on road to 2016 finals

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Kyle Lafferty celebrates scoring against Greece

Kyle Lafferty celebrates scoring against Greece

Brian Little

Kyle Lafferty is sent off against Portugal last year

Kyle Lafferty is sent off against Portugal last year

Kyle Lafferty rues missing a great chance against Luxembourg two years ago

Kyle Lafferty rues missing a great chance against Luxembourg two years ago

Kyle Lafferty celebrates scoring against Greece

From theatrics on the football pitch to being called an "out-of-control womaniser", 27-year-old Kyle Lafferty has had a colourful past.

But the Kesh man appears to have turned a corner as he's been hailed the men in green's hero.

On Tuesday night football fans across the country rejoiced as Northern Ireland made history as they beat Greece in their third 2016 European Championship qualifier in Athens.

Emotional fans could hardly believe their eyes when Lafferty secured the Greek triumph as he scored the second goal of the match.

Lafferty received resounding praise as he was named man of the match for the third qualifier in a row. He tweeted after the match: "The way I am feeling right now words can't describe it. What a team performance. Just shows hard work, heart and determination is everything."

Lafferty has come a long way from when his Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill once called him "reckless and ridiculous" after he got sent off and was subsequently suspended for the World Cup qualifier in Luxembourg in 2013.

Former Northern Ireland striker Billy Hamilton believes Lafferty has turned a corner thanks to the influence of boss O'Neill and that Lafferty is "instrumental" in pushing the team towards qualifying for the finals in France in 2016.

He said: "I think he has matured over the last few years, I think Michael O'Neill has had a quiet word in his ear. Michael has him playing to the top of his level and he's a revelation for Northern Ireland.

"If Kyle could realise how important a member of the team he is, he has to stop reacting to provocation and getting himself booked.

"But he has shown signs that he has matured well."

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Greece's goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis and Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty during the UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifying match at the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis, Piraeus

Greece's goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis and Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty during the UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifying match at the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis, Piraeus

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Greece's Kostas Manolas and Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty (right) during the UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifying match at the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis, Piraeus

Greece's Kostas Manolas and Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty (right) during the UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifying match at the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis, Piraeus

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Greece's Kostas Manolas and Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty during the UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifying match at the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis, Piraeus

Greece's Kostas Manolas and Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty during the UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifying match at the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis, Piraeus

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Greece's Kostas Stafylidis and Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty (right) during the UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifying match at the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis, Piraeus

Greece's Kostas Stafylidis and Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty (right) during the UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifying match at the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis, Piraeus

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Northern Ireland Coach Michael O'Neill during the UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifying match at the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis, Piraeus

Northern Ireland Coach Michael O'Neill during the UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifying match at the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis, Piraeus

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Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty scores their second goal during the UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifying match at the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis, Piraeus.

Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty scores their second goal during the UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifying match at the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis, Piraeus.

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Northern Ireland's Coach Michael O'Neill celebrates their second goal with Kyle Lafferty during the UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifying match at the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis, Piraeus.

Northern Ireland's Coach Michael O'Neill celebrates their second goal with Kyle Lafferty during the UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifying match at the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis, Piraeus.

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Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty celebrates scoring the second goal during the UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifying match at the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis, Piraeus.

Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty celebrates scoring the second goal during the UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifying match at the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis, Piraeus.

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Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty celebrates scoring against Greece during Tuesday nights UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifier at the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis, Athens. Picture: William Cherry / Presseye

Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty celebrates scoring against Greece during Tuesday nights UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifier at the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis, Athens. Picture: William Cherry / Presseye

©William Cherry / Presseye

Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty celebrates scoring against Greece during Tuesday night's UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifier at the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis, Athens. Picture: William Cherry / Presseye

Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty celebrates scoring against Greece during Tuesday night's UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifier at the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis, Athens. Picture: William Cherry / Presseye

©William Cherry / Presseye

Northern Ireland during Tuesday night's UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifier at the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis, Athens. Picture: William Cherry / Presseye

Northern Ireland during Tuesday night's UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifier at the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis, Athens. Picture: William Cherry / Presseye

©William Cherry / Presseye

Northern Ireland during Tuesday night's UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifier at the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis, Athens. Picture: William Cherry / Presseye

Northern Ireland during Tuesday night's UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifier at the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis, Athens. Picture: William Cherry / Presseye

©William Cherry / Presseye

Northern Ireland's Jamie Ward celebrates scoring against Greece during Tuesday night's UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifier at the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis, Athens. Picture: William Cherry / Presseye

Northern Ireland's Jamie Ward celebrates scoring against Greece during Tuesday night's UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifier at the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis, Athens. Picture: William Cherry / Presseye

©William Cherry / Presseye

Greece's Vasilis Torosidis with Northern Ireland's Oliver Norwood during UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifier at the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis, Athens. Picture: William Cherry / Presseye

Greece's Vasilis Torosidis with Northern Ireland's Oliver Norwood during UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifier at the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis, Athens. Picture: William Cherry / Presseye

©William Cherry / Presseye

Northern Ireland fans 'Scobby Doo' Ian Donaghey from Londonderry with Hannah (6) and Alex Smallwood (8) supporting the side against  Greece  during Tuesday  night's EURO 2016 Group F Qualifier at Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis, Athens.
Picture by Brian Little/Presseye

Northern Ireland fans 'Scobby Doo' Ian Donaghey from Londonderry with Hannah (6) and Alex Smallwood (8) supporting the side against Greece during Tuesday night's EURO 2016 Group F Qualifier at Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis, Athens. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye

Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty celebrates scoring against Greece during Tuesday nights UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifier at the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis, Athens. Picture: William Cherry / Presseye

Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty celebrates scoring against Greece during Tuesday nights UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifier at the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis, Athens. Picture: William Cherry / Presseye

©William Cherry / Presseye

Greece's Orestis Karnezis with Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty during Tuesday nights UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifier at the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis, Athens. Picture: William Cherry / Presseye

Greece's Orestis Karnezis with Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty during Tuesday nights UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifier at the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis, Athens. Picture: William Cherry / Presseye

©William Cherry / Presseye

Northern Ireland's Jamie Ward celebrates scoring against Greece during Tuesday nights UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifier at the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis, Athens. Picture: William Cherry / Presseye

Northern Ireland's Jamie Ward celebrates scoring against Greece during Tuesday nights UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifier at the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis, Athens. Picture: William Cherry / Presseye

©William Cherry / Presseye

Greece's goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis and Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty during the UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifying match at the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis, Piraeus

He added: "He (Michael) is very patient with him and now Michael and Northern Ireland are reaping the rewards."

One controversy that was difficult for Lafferty to shake off was when the then Rangers player was retrospectively punished for feigning a headbutt, resulting in a red card for then Aberdeen player Charlie Mulgrew in 2009. Television pictures showed no such offence had been committed as Rangers went on to win the crucial match.

The case was referred to the Scottish Football Association (SFA) review panel and Lafferty was given a two-game suspension for simulation – the first time such action was taken by the SFA.

In 2011 he ruffled the feathers of Celtic manager Neil Lennon when he gloated on Twitter following Rangers' 3-1 win at Celtic Park.

His reputation wasn't helped when during his time at Italian club Palermo, its President Maurizio Zamparini called the striker "an out-of-control womaniser" and claimed that this lifestyle resulted in him being sold to Norwich where he currently plays.

'What Kyle Lafferty has done is remarkable. A year ago some were saying his international career was in doubt'

Steven Beacom, Belfast Telegraph sports editor

'I've been one of his biggest supporters and critics in the past. He'll be instrumental in us qualifying for France'

Billy Hamilton, former NI striker

'Big Kyle deserves credit. He's silenced a lot of critics. Attitude has been 100% and he's been unreal'

David Cully, NI supporter

'Kyle is making a great contribution to the team. He's be a major factor in Northern Ireland doing well'

Gary McAllister, supporters' club spokesman

Belfast Telegraph