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Relief for NI as Kyle Lafferty escapes ban

By Stuart McKinley

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill has breathed a huge sigh of relief after star striker Kyle Lafferty escaped a suspension for a betting offence.

The 28-year-old Norwich ace was fined £23,000 after accepting the FA misconduct charge and while that will hit the Fermanagh man in the pocket, it is good news for Northern Ireland ahead of the 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign.

Had Lafferty been hit with a suspension it would have ruled him out of all football - including the World Cup qualifiers against the Czech Republic next month and possibly the games against San Marino and Germany in October.

An FA statement said: "Kyle Lafferty has been fined £23,000 and warned as to his future conduct after he accepted an FA misconduct charge in relation to betting.

"The Norwich City forward breached FA Rule E8 in respect of a bet placed on the result, progress, conduct or any other aspect of, or occurrence in, a football match or competition on February 20, 2016."

Although Lafferty only started two of Northern Ireland's matches at Euro 2016, O'Neill would have been loath to do without his main goal threat at the start of the World Cup qualifying campaign after he netted seven times in nine games to help the team to France.

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