Euro 2016: Michael O’Neill names the Northern Ireland squad that is going France
Wigan striker Will Grigg named in Northern Ireland's Euro 2016 squad. Liam Boyce, Billy McKay, Daniel Lafferty, Michael Smith and Ben Reeves miss out
Will Grigg's place in Northern Ireland's 23-man Euro 2016 squad has been confirmed, but Liam Boyce, Billy McKay, Daniel Lafferty, Michael Smith and Ben Reeves have all been left out by manager Michael O'Neill.
Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill revealed who is on the plane to France at a star-studded press conference at Titanic Belfast.
The panel was named one by one with players' images appearing against a backdrop of the iconic Giants Causeway.
Steven Davis and Kyle Lafferty head the squad bound for the Euros.
There are also places for Jonny Evans, Chris Baird, Gareth McAuley and Aaron Hughes.
Craig Cathcart, Paddy McNair and Stuart Dallas are also in.
And fans’ favourite Will Grigg makes the final cut - hours after scoring his first international goal against Belarus.
As widely predicted, the players to miss out are Michael Smith, Daniel Lafferty, Ben Reeves, Billy McKay and Liam Boyce.
O’Neill said: “Memories of World Cups and major championships live with you for ever.
“The opportunity is there for our players to write their own memories and to create their own history - let the dream continue.”
O'Neill backed the players to spring a surprise in France.
"We left left an impression throughout the qualification ... but I think we will be underestimated," he added.
He said Northern Ireland's team spirit was its biggest asset.
Several hundred fans were among the audience at Titanic Belfast for the lunchtime announcement.
The event was compered by Northern Ireland fan and DJ Colin Murray.
Former players including Peter McParland, Billy Hamilton and Pat Jennings were also present.
O'Neill was given a standing ovation as he arrived with his family.
His final selection has three goalkeepers: Michael McGovern, Roy Carroll and Alan Mannus.
The defenders are Jonny Evans, Craig Cathcart, Aaron Hughes, Lee Hodson, Gareth McAuley, Conor McLaughlin, Luke McCullough, Paddy McNair and Shane Ferguson.
Davis, the team captain, is among the midfielders. The others are Stuart Dallas, Corry Evans, Oliver Norwood, Niall McGinn and Chris Baird.
Up front, O’Neill has gone for Lafferty, Grigg, Jamie Ward, Josh Magennis and Conor Washington.
O’Neill said opting for Grigg over Boyce had been his hardest call - but he said it was the right decision.
Today’s squad selection is another big milestone on the final countdown to Euro 2016.
It follows a night of celebration for the 14,000-plus supporters who packed the national stadium for the 3-0 win over Belarus - Northern Ireland’s last home game before flying off.
Fireworks lit up the night sky as the team was given a rousing send-off.
After today’s squad announcement, the group jets off from Belfast City Airport on Monday for a training camp in Austria.
Then it’s on to Slovakia for the final warm-up game next Saturday.
They arrive in France the following day, and will be based near Lyon.
Northern Ireland kick off against Poland in Nice on June 12.
They face the Ukraine in Lyon four days later, before concluding the group stage against Germany in Paris on June 21.
- Will Grigg wants to remain on fire for Northern Ireland
- Michael O'Neill revels in Northern Ireland's send-off for Euro 2016
- Fireworks on and off pitch as Northern Ireland warm up for Euro 2016 in style
- Grigg's joy and relief as he proves he can be on fire for NI too
- The perfect night as our boys gear up for Euro adventure
- It's three and easy as O'Neill's men sign off in style
- Now let's go and light up Europe
The official Northern Ireland squad
Here is the full list of players chosen to lead their country at their first major tournament in 30 years:
MICHAEL McGOVERN (Hamilton, 12/07/84, caps 10, goals 0)
Wrestled the number-one jersey away from Roy Carroll in the summer of 2015 and the former Celtic trainee has not looked back since.
ROY CARROLL (Linfield, 30/09/77, caps 44, goals 0)
Earned his first cap way back in 1997 and started the opening five games in this qualification process only to lose his spot to McGovern when he was ill.
ALAN MANNUS (St Johnstone, 19/05/82, caps 8, goals 0)
Third-choice stopper was manager O'Neill's goalkeeper at League of Ireland club Shamrock Rovers between 2009 and 2011
CHRIS BAIRD (Derby, 25/02/82, caps 77, goals 0)
One of a host of vastly-experienced defenders Northern Ireland possess, Baird can also fill in in midfield.
CRAIG CATHCART (Watford, 06/02/89, caps 27, goals 2)
Ex-Manchester United academy graduate has experienced a fine season with Watford and is a big reason why boss O'Neill has experimented with a back three.
JONNY EVANS (West Brom, 03/01/88, caps 48, goals 1)
A three-time Premier League champion who is now part of a strong Northern Irish contingent at West Brom. Evans' nous will be invaluable.
LEE HODSON (MK Dons, 02/10/91, caps 15, goals 0)
A right-back who spent the second half of the season on loan with Kilmarnock and did enough to win the nod ahead of Peterborough's one-cap full-back Smith.
AARON HUGHES (Melbourne City, 08/11/79, caps 99, goals 1)
Well-respected professional who made a retirement U-turn in 2012 and should bring up a century of international appearances in Slovakia before heading to the Euros.
GARETH McAULEY (West Brom, 05/12/79, caps 60, goals 7)
A late bloomer who forms part of a strong Northern Irish backbone. Also poses a threat at the other end with his ability in the air.
LUKE McCULLOUGH (Doncaster, 15/02/94, caps 5, goals 0)
Has been part of two relegation campaigns in three years with Doncaster, but that has not dissuaded O'Neill from including him as defensive cover.
CONOR McLAUGHLIN (Fleetwood, 26/07/91, caps 17, goals 0)
Despite playing for a Sky Bet League One club, McLaughlin was a regular in the qualifying campaign and is the natural fit as the right wing-back in the 3-5-2 which may be deployed.
PADDY McNAIR (Manchester United, 27/04/95, caps 8, goals 0)
Has been given opportunities in defence for Manchester United's senior team, though he and O'Neill sees his future in a central-midfield berth, where he starred in a recent friendly with Wales.
STUART DALLAS (Leeds, 19/04/91, caps 13, goals 1)
Finished the season in impressive fashion with Leeds and will almost certainly start on the left flank against Poland in the first group game.
STEVEN DAVIS (Southampton, 01/01/85, caps 82, goals 8)
A consistent performer at the heart of the midfield, the skipper scored a brace in the qualification-clinching victory over Greece in October and has been superb for Southampton of late.
CORRY EVANS (Blackburn, 30/07/90, caps 33, goals 1)
Young brother of defender Jonny Evans who is not shy of doing the dirty work in midfield, which may be required against teams who are expected to have more possession.
SHANE FERGUSON (Millwall, 12/07/91, caps 24, goals 1)
Another left-sided player that gets up and down well and offers an option in a 3-5-2 system. He still has a play-off final at Wembley marked on his calendar.
NIALL McGINN (Aberdeen, 20/07/87, caps 42, goals 2)
It was McGinn's introduction from the bench in the first qualifier against Hungary that set Northern Ireland on the road to France as he scored one and made the other in a come-from-behind victory.
OLIVER NORWOOD (Reading, 12/04/91, caps 33, goals 0)
Under-rated central midfielder who boasts a terrific set-piece delivery. Long-range strikes have become his calling card.
WILL GRIGG (Wigan, 03/07/91, caps 8, goals 1)
Scored 25 goals to earn a third straight promotion out of League One. The Wigan chant states he is "on fire" and his form earned him a recall and a spot in the final squad.
KYLE LAFFERTY (Norwich, 16/09/87, caps 50, goals 17)
An end-of-season loan spell with Birmingham helped Lafferty get back up to match fitness. He scored seven goals in qualification and will be key to his country's fortunes.
JOSH MAGENNIS (Kilmarnock, 15/08/90, caps 18, goals 1)
A former goalkeeper that now relies on his power and pace up top. Scored when filling in for Lafferty in the victory over Greece in October.
JAMIE WARD (Nottingham Forest, 12/05/86, caps 21, goals 2)
The energetic Ward can play wide in a three or provide a foil up top for Lafferty. A hamstring injury ended his season in April.
CONOR WASHINGTON (QPR, 18/05/92, caps 3, goals 2)
Showed he belongs on the international scene with a terrific winner against Slovenia in March. The former postman is a raw talent that has yet to find the net since moving to the Championship.
Belfast Telegraph Digital