Belfast Telegraph

Pragmatic Liam Boyce and Billy McKay will look to the future if they don't make cut for the Euro 2016

By Steven Beacom

Liam Boyce and Billy McKay know it is 'touch and go' whether they make it into Michael O'Neill's 23-man Northern Ireland squad for the Euro 2016 finals.

Boyce played for the final 12 minutes as a substitute on the unforgettable October night when Northern Ireland defeated Greece 3-1 at Windsor Park and qualified for France, but there is uncertainty whether the Ross County ace will make the trip.

The same goes for Dundee United's McKay despite, like Boyce, having a fine season in front of goal in the Scottish Premiership.

The feeling is that O'Neill will take four strikers and supplement them with the versatile Jamie Ward.

Kyle Lafferty will lead the line in the tournament with Conor Washington and Josh Magennis also set to board the plane meaning Boyce, McKay and Will Grigg are expected to fight it out for the one remaining forward spot.

Since the players joined up for training last week, those on the fringe have been doing all they can to impress.

Former Cliftonville hitman Boyce said: "I'm not really nervous, but you know the importance of this week.

"It's the last chance to show what you can do in training. I've been training well this week and last week so hopefully I can continue that right up to the game on Friday at home to Belarus."

McKay (right) added: "I've been in nearly every squad for three or four years but I know I'm one of the lads who's probably touch and go whether I'm going, so I just have to impress Michael.

"It is quite hard obviously because Michael is preparing things for the game on Friday and the tournament, and looking at certain players. If he sets out a team and you're not in it, even in training, you're a bit disappointed because it's a chance missed to impress."

Both would be gutted if not selected but 25-year-old Boyce insists that even if he doesn't make it to France, he could still have a bright international future.

"I'm still young so if I don't get picked for the Euros I'll just be focusing on next season and trying to carry on my form," he said.

"That's the most important thing, to keep the form going so you keep getting picked and then eventually you'll get the chance. If it doesn't come for the Euros then I'll look on to the World Cup qualifiers."

Asked how he believes Northern Ireland can do in France, McKay, 27, said: "I think we're probably going there a bit as underdogs in our group but we had that tag in the qualifying group and look how we did - we won the group.

"If people underestimate us that will be their problem. I think out there we're going to show up an awful lot of teams."

Boyce suggests that during the Euro 2016 group games, Poland, Ukraine and Germany, for all their attacking threats, will find it difficult to break Northern Ireland down.

He said: "That's one of the strengths, everyone knows what they're doing, we all play for each other and there's good tactics. I think we have a strong base, a strong spine and we also have players who can cause any team problems with pace.

"People respect teams who more or less dominate games but we know we can cause problems at any time. It's all about focus, concentrating on your own job and if a chance comes eventually someone will take it."

Belfast Telegraph