Belfast Telegraph

Magnificent McNair has come to the fore, so dismiss NI's finals hopes at your peril

Shining star: NI ace Paddy McNair
Shining star: NI ace Paddy McNair
Stephen Craigan

By Stephen Craigan

The disappointment of losing late on in Rotterdam was blown away inside 45 minutes as Northern Ireland produced a scintillating first-half performance to lead 3-0 in Prague.

I know it may be scant consolation to some, as defeat to the Netherlands will still be raw, but there were so many encouraging signs to come out of our friendly over the Czech Republic victory on Monday night.

The growth of Paddy McNair in the last 12 months has been terrific; he's made himself an automatic pick alongside captain Steven Davis in midfield.

Also the way we defended late on showed we do have the character and determination to get games over the line.

If, as people are predicting, we have a very good chance of making the play-offs for Euro 2020 then winning away from home against good sides is a vital habit to get into.

Potentially we would have to qualify the hard way with two games away from Windsor Park, so positive experiences help mentally with that challenge.

It may be the long route to get to the Euros, but with this Northern Ireland squad nothing seems impossible, and their ability to respond from setbacks is admirable.

We all know that if anyone can, Northern Ireland can!

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