Tuesday 25 October 2016

O'Neill: Bans won't affect us

Michael O'Neill
Michael O'Neill

Michael O'Neill is confident Northern Ireland's Euro 2016 dream will not be derailed by suspensions next month.

A first major tournament in 30 years remains on the cards for O'Neill over-performing fifth seeds, after Kyle Lafferty's injury-time equaliser against Hungary kept them top of Group F with two to play.

A home win against Greece at Windsor Park in October would seal the deal regardless of other results, but that would have to be achieved without seven-goal top-scorer Lafferty, right-back Conor McLaughlin and holding midfielder Chris Baird.


Lafferty and McLaughlin both picked up their second bookings of the campaign on Monday night, while Baird was sent off in a curious incident that saw him earn two cautions in the same passage of play - a decision that could yet lead to an appeal.

The limited player pool available to Northern Ireland means they can sometimes struggle to paper over such cracks, but O'Neill (left) believes he has able deputies in all three positions.

"You have to be able to deal with suspensions, that's the nature of international football," he said. "We have options. Kyle being out is a blow, of course it is, but someone else will step up. We've seen little glimpses of what Josh Magennis can offer up front: he's a physical presence, he's powerful and I don't think people fully appreciate what he gives to this squad.

"Overall there's a lot to be positive about."

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