Belfast Telegraph

Lafferty is aiming to join greats after admitting he feared for Euros dream

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland striker Kyle Lafferty has admitted that he feared the worst and thought his Euro 2016 dream was over after suffering a twisted groin injury early this week.

There was concern over Lafferty's fitness when he fell to the turf on Tuesday and hobbled away from a training session, but following a scan he was given the all-clear and will be ready to lead the line tomorrow against Poland in Northern Ireland's opening match in the tournament.

Lafferty, who scored seven goals in the successful qualifying series, is now relishing starting in Nice.

"When I had the sharpest pain in my groin, I thought the worst, as you do, but the longer the day went on, I started feeling better as I was getting more stiff and that was probably a good sign," said the Fermanagh man.

"I went for a scan and the results came back clear and it gave me the go-ahead to start training intense again. I have and I feel great. I've never felt better.

"It's feeling good, I trained by myself yesterday (Thursday), did a few runs, a few twists and turns and it feels good."

Following all that drama, Lafferty now wants to deliver some delight to the Northern Ireland supporters tomorrow.

"I've never been so excited about a football match," said the Norwich City striker.

"I heard there's over 40,000 fans coming which is incredible and we're not going to go out there and let anyone down.

"We're there to put in a performance and get the result that we need to take us into the Ukraine game that will almost take us over the finish line."

Asked in an Irish FA interview about his preparations for the Poland game, Lafferty said: "I'm probably the worst person to prepare for a game but the last two or three days I've been preparing on point and tonight and tomorrow night will probably be the best I'll have ever prepared for a game.

"Michael (O'Neill) said it today this is going to be everyone's biggest international game to date and everyone's going to be 100 per cent on point and we're going to put on a performance for the fans who are there and for Michael and our families."

In the past, great names like Peter McParland, Gerry Armstrong, Billy Hamilton and Norman Whiteside have found the net for Northern Ireland at major tournaments. Lafferty would love to follow suit and become the first Northern Ireland player to score in the Euros.

He said: "I think to score in a major tournament will be amazing for myself. At the end of the day, we're here to pick up the points that we need to progress to the knockout stages so if I don't get a goal and we manage to get through, everyone's happy."

Belfast Telegraph