Belfast Telegraph

Craig Cathcart aims for many more big European nights

By Julian Taylor

Craig Cathcart savoured his role in act one of Northern Ireland's drama in Hungary. And now, after admitting his love for playing in the green jersey, he hopes to prosper throughout what could shape up to be an enthralling Euro 2016 campaign.

The Watford defender replaced injured stalwart Gareth McAuley in the 72nd minute at the Groupama Arena as Michael O'Neill's men closed in on what was looking like a scoreless draw against the Magyars.

It wasn't looking good for Cathcart though when, three minutes later, he witnessed Tamas Priskin putting the hosts in front, before the exciting Niall McGinn-Kyle Lafferty 'double trouble' sealed the points on a famous evening for Northern Ireland. The kind of night the 18-times capped battler lives for.

Said Cathcart: "Overall to come back from one-nil down showed the real kind of character we have in the squad now. But we need to take that into the next game. After this we can be confident of going and getting more away wins.

"This is one of the reasons why I love playing for Northern Ireland, to have nights when you dig in for a win. Coming away to these places is always going to be difficult but it's all about riding the storm.

"If you look at the group, people are now going to think that Northern Ireland are capable of picking up results away from home. We scored two goals in Hungary and had three or four other chances to score more," the 25-year-old added.

"We played some good football at times and created clear chances, which we haven't always done in the past, so that is definitely going to stand us in good stead.

"It's a team game and you can't let things like going a goal down affect you. Once we got the first goal it showed confidence we can do it all again in the future.

"Fortunately for me I featured, coming off the bench for Gareth, and, after playing in the last World Cup qualifying campaign, hopefully there will be more games like this to come for me."

Meanwhile, Andy Little paid tribute to Northern Ireland match winning 'pest' Kyle Lafferty, after the rejuvenated Norwich City forward paid back manager Michael O'Neill's faith in him, with added interest.

"Top marks to him and full credit to him for his performance," Little insisted.

"As a striker I think it's very tough job to do, playing up front on your own like he did. You don't really get a lot of joy and a lot of thanks, but you work ever so hard and you get your rewards.

"If you go and work as hard as Kyle did on the night, especially with not just with the goal, but with an assist as well.

"As a team and for the country it was just brilliant to get a good start to the group as well as getting rid of a few unwanted stats. It's a big confidence booster for the boys who played.

"Niall was great when he came on too. It's great to have a few other options and to have those sorts of players who can come off the bench and change the game for us. He showed against Hungary that he can make a massive impact when he comes on."

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