Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland star Will Grigg on fire for Euros but Liam Boyce faces Finals agony

Will's on the way to France as O'Neill makes tough call

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland striker Will Grigg is on his way to the Euro 2016 finals after winning the biggest battle of his football life.

It is understood the Wigan star is set to be named in Michael O'Neill's 23 man squad tomorrow, having edged out unfortunate Ross County ace Liam Boyce for the last forward spot on the panel with places for Kyle Lafferty, Conor Washington and Josh Magennis already assured.

Grigg has been the centre of much publicity lately due to the song 'Will Grigg's on fire' going viral on the internet.

More: Will Grigg's Euro 2016 billboard gets viral chant 'makeover'

He hit another net 25 times in League One as Wigan won promotion to the Championship this season and impressed O'Neill in training over the past two weeks.

It's a huge boost for Grigg ahead of tonight's farewell friendly at home to Belarus (7.45pm), though for Boyce it will be tough to take.

Former Cliftonville hero Boyce was not at training yesterday at Windsor Park prior to the final game in Belfast for Northern Ireland before the Euro finals.

Also missing were Peterborough defender Michael Smith, MK Dons midfielder Ben Reeves, Dundee United striker Billy McKay and Burnley full-back Daniel Lafferty.

Like Boyce they aren't expected to make the cut when O'Neill announces the squad tomorrow afternoon at the Titanic building in Belfast.

What that means is that other fringe players Doncaster Rovers defender Luke McCullough and MK Dons defender Lee Hodson should be on the plane to France.

More: 5 talking points ahead of Northern Ireland's clash with Belarus

The other 20 were all virtually guaranteed their places after qualification was secured last October thanks to a 3-1 win over Greece at Windsor. Boyce played the last 12 minutes then and can count himself unlucky not to be going to the tournament.

Given that Northern Ireland play Belarus tonight and in Slovakia next Saturday before the Euros, the door is not totally closed on the quintet who are set to miss out, as injuries may come into play.

O'Neill will also ask some of them to join the camp in Austria next week and go to France to help with training.

Quizzed on the absentees from yesterday's training, in which Glenavon youngster Joel Cooper took part, O'Neill said: "We gave some of the boys a day off.

"Those lads have been in training consistently for 10 days so we gave them a day off. Nothing sinister," he added.

Northern Ireland squad bound for Euro 2016 (barring injuries): Alan Mannus (St. Johnstone), Michael McGovern (Hamilton), Roy Carroll (Linfield); Craig Cathcart (Watford), Jonny Evans (WBA), G McAuley (WBA), Luke McCullough (Doncaster Rovers), Conor McLaughlin (Fleetwood Town), Lee Hodson (MK Dons), Aaron Hughes (Melbourne City), Paddy McNair (Manchester United), Steven Davis (Southampton), Oliver Norwood, (Reading), Corry Evans, (Blackburn Rovers), Shane Ferguson (Millwall), Jamie Ward (Nottingham Forest), Chris Baird (Derby County) Stuart Dallas (Leeds United), Niall McGinn (Aberdeen), Will Grigg (Wigan Athletic), Kyle Lafferty (Norwich City), Conor Washington (QPR), Josh Magennis (Kilmarnock).

Belfast Telegraph