Ollie set to make his mark in FranceReading midfielder Oliver Norwood has been confirmed as part of the 23-man Northern Ireland squad to take part in their first ever European Championships this summer.
The achievement of starting all of the qualifiers was even recognised by another Northern Ireland sporting great – Rory McIlroy presented Ollie with a commemorative picture by way of congratulations!
Norwood took an unfamiliar position amongst the subs on Friday evening as they entertained Belarus at Windsor Park. Introduced at the break with his team already two goals to the good through Kyle Lafferty and Conor Washington, the midfielder maestro caught the eye in the second half and put in some telling dead-balls; Will Grigg sealed a 3-0 triumph with two minutes of normal time left to play.
That result took extended their remarkable run of undefeated games to 11 – Slovakia provide the final opposition for the Ulstermen on Saturday 4th June, eight days before their Euro 2016 campaign gets underway against Poland. Germany and Ukraine are the other two opponents in a brutally tough draw – can they continue to rewrite the script?
News on the squad selections for Wales and the Republic of Ireland are both on hold at present. Stephen Quinn played over an hour in an impressive 1-1 draw with Netherlands for Ireland on Friday evening – in which former Royals Academy man Shane Long opened the scoring – but boss Martin O’Neill confirmed that he wouldn’t be naming his tournament until after their final friendly fixture, which also comes against Belarus on Tuesday evening in Cork. Wales’ team announcement is set to take place on the same day, and then they face Sweden in a final friendly fixture on the following Sunday.
Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, Garath McCleary’s Jamaica caught the eye with a friendly win against reigning Copa America holders Chile in the early hours of Saturday morning – former Royal Michael Hector also started the fixture.
MON: It will be highly unlikely I'll name the 23 before Belarus. Everyone in the squad goes to Cork. #COYBIG— FAIreland (@FAIreland) May 27, 2016
And it was McCleary’s low cross which was controlled and poked in by Clayton Donaldson before Joel Grant doubled the lead; Nicolas Castillo’s late strike was merely consolation for the hosts. Jamaica face Venezuela, Mexico and Uruguay in the group stage of the Copa America Centenario when it kicks off next weekend.