Belfast Telegraph

David Healy: Fearless Conor Washington will help Northern Ireland relight fire at Euro 2016

Disappointment. I think that was the overriding emotion of all Northern Ireland fans after Sunday's 1-0 defeat to Poland. The players and manager Michael O'Neill will have felt exactly the same way.

In football, and especially at a tournament like Euro 2016, you have to get over disappointment quickly though and move on.

The next game against Ukraine is just a couple of days away and it now becomes the biggest match the boys have ever played.

While Northern Ireland didn't play to the level they are capable of producing on Sunday in Nice, it is worth remembering that for all involved it was their first taste of international football in a major finals so I can tell you there will have been plenty of nerves for the players and staff.

But now that they have got that experience over with they will know what to expect when the Lyon game comes around on Thursday.

I believe the players will have learned more from the Poland defeat than they did during the 12-match unbeaten run that took them into the tournament.

Everyone from the manager to the players must use that to their advantage.

I fancy Michael will shake things up a bit for the Ukraine game, be it playing the 3-5-2 system that has worked well in recent friendlies or the 4-3-3 he used in the qualifiers.

What I would like to see is Michael playing Conor Washington from the start alongside Kyle Lafferty in attack. When Conor came on against Poland in the second half for the first time in the game we looked a threat.

I really like Conor. He has only played a few matches at international level and you can see he approaches the matches with no fear which is a good quality to have. There is an unpredictability about him that opposition teams dread.

He is also physical which in modern day international football is vital. He is willing to take defenders on and run at them and get the fans going. And he would offer much-needed support for Kyle, who for most of the Poland game was isolated.

There's no doubt this is a step up in class for all of the team, but Northern Ireland need a positive result against Ukraine and by unleashing Washington I think it would be the way to go in a 3-5-2 formation.

Another option Michael may look at it is 4-3-3 using Stuart Dallas and Jamie Ward either side of Kyle.

That has worked in the past and could work again versus Ukraine, but I hope Washington gets the nod.

I really believe that he could rattle Ukraine and help us create a lot more chances than we did in the Poland game.

Like the Poles, Ukraine will be technically good and strong physically, but in my view we can beat them if we are at our best and keep our hopes of progressing to the last 16 alive.

I was at home here in Northern Ireland for Sunday's match and I have to say the build-up was incredible. In Belfast I don't think I've ever seen more Northern Ireland tops. I felt a huge surge of pride as I walked around the city and another one on match day when on television I heard the Northern Ireland fans sing my name in the stadium in Nice on Sunday.

That was quite a moment.

Our fans have been sensational to date and I know they will be in full voice for the Ukraine game roaring our boys on.

It is so sad that one of our supporters, Darren Rodgers, tragically lost his life in Nice.

I want to send my sympathy to Darren's family. This will be such a terrible time for them and my thoughts are with them.

Like everyone I was shocked to hear that news. It really does put everything in perspective.

Belfast Telegraph