Belfast Telegraph

Fireworks on and off pitch as Northern Ireland warm up for Euro 2016 in style

By Adrian Rutherford

Northern Ireland's Euro 2016-bound footballers were given a heroes' send-off at a raucous Windsor Park last night.

They beat Belarus 3-0 in the final home match before they head to France.

Kyle Lafferty marked his 50th international appearance by scoring the opener, with Conor Washington and Will Grigg also on the mark.

It was a night of celebration for the 14,000-plus supporters packed inside the National Stadium.

Fireworks lit up the night sky as fans partied in the stands ahead of next month's adventure.

The Dario G hit Carnaval de Paris provided a fitting musical backdrop.

Addressing the crowd at the end, O'Neill paid tribute to the fans, who have waited 30 years to see their team compete at a major tournament.

O'Neill said: "It's easy to support a team when it's doing well, true supporters support a team when it's not doing well, and you've always stuck by us.

"These players are going into a special time in their careers."

He added: "Hopefully, you've a team you are proud of. We're determined to make you proud."

A video montage of Northern Ireland's historic qualifying campaign was played on the big screens, watched by O'Neill and his squad. The match itself was a one-sided affair, with Northern Ireland in control from the start.

Lafferty, fresh from getting married last weekend, gave them a dream start after five minutes.

Washington then made it 2-0 just before half-time. Grigg's goal in the final seconds was particularly popular among the fans.

He has become a cult hero largely down to the terrace chant 'Will Grigg's on Fire'. It was sung throughout the 90 minutes, but his late goal drew the loudest rendition of the night.

O'Neill will confirm his 23-man panel this afternoon, before the squad jets off on Monday for a training camp in Austria.

Then it's on to Slovakia for the final warm-up game next Saturday before their arrival in Lyon the following day. Northern Ireland open their Euro 2016 campaign against Poland on June 12.

Belfast Telegraph


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