Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland are feeling the heat on Central American tour, admits Dallas

Close shave: Stuart Dallas has a trim at the Northern Ireland team’s hotel in San Jose
Close shave: Stuart Dallas has a trim at the Northern Ireland team’s hotel in San Jose
Stuart Dallas

By Paul Ferguson in Costa Rica

Wing back Stuart Dallas hopes Northern Ireland will no longer have to tackle jet lag as well as their World Cup opponents in their final match of this two-game Central American tour.

The Leeds United star admitted the six and now seven hour time difference between here and the UK, along with the intense Panama City heat, meant the men in green struggled to perform to their optimum best on Tuesday night at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez.

But having arrived in San Jose on Wednesday evening, the Northern Ireland squad are enjoying a drop in temperature and a downgrade in humidity compared to Panama, and Sunday's game against Costa Rica will kick off at 11am local time.

The former Crusaders star, who is expected to start at right wing back against Costa Rica and win his 30th cap, said: "No point lying about it, the staff have done everything they can to get us in the best condition possible for these two games, but it's been tough.

"It's been difficult coming out and having just three days to adjust to the time difference for our first game. The game kicked off 2am British time and ended shortly before 4am back home. I think you could see we were all very tired at the end and obviously playing in that heat and humidity made it even more challenging.

"We are all at different stages in terms of finishing the season. Some have just finished while others like myself had finished three or four weeks ago.

"I missed four or five weeks of the season with injury and am really only coming back so it was good to get 60 minutes playing time. It was difficult but I thought overall we did well, we matched them. They had a lot more to play for than we had but it gets our fitness improving ahead of pre season. However, first we have Costa Rica I'm looking forward to enjoying the summer."

Sunday's game will be Costa Rica's final home match before Russia but it's unlikely, with the Ticos having been regulars at World Cups, that the send-off will match that of the Panamanians on Tuesday night.

Dallas has played in big club matches for Leeds and major internationals down the years, but he insists nothing compares to the atmosphere inside Panama City. And he loved it.

"It was a great occasion to play in with all the fireworks at the start and for a proud nation like Panama going to the World Cup," conceded 27 year-old Dallas. "You could tell it meant so much to the fans.

"It was loud at the start but we totally understood the occasion - this was their last game before the World Cup. They are probably a bit surprised that they are going to the World Cup - certainly that's the reaction I was getting from any of the locals I spoke to. They just came in their thousands to the stadium and wanted to celebrate their team's achievements. However, a draw in the end was a fair result."

Our coverage of Northern Ireland's tour to play Panama and Costa Rica is brought to you in conjunction with BetMcLean.

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