Fleetwood defender Conor McLaughlin is hopeful of bagging a place on the plane to France when Northern Ireland’s 23-man squad for Euro 2016 is announced on Saturday, writes ROSIE SWARBRICK.
McLaughlin has been manager Michael O’Neill’s first-choice right-back of late but the 24-year-old is not counting his chickens as he prepares to win his 13th cap in his home city of Belfast in the friendly against Belarus on Friday.
He has spent the week with the rest of the Northern Irish squad at a training camp in Dublin as they prepare for their first-ever campaign in the European Championship finals.
McLaughlin told The Gazette: “I had a week off after the final game of the season and then I was at the training camp.
“That camp was mainly for the League One and the Championship players to keep our fitness levels up, with the Premier League finishing a week later.
“It is good to see everyone again and it has been a chance for everyone to stake their claim.
“We play friendlies against Belarus and away in Slovakia (on Saturday week).
“I’m hopeful I will be in the 23-man squad, considering I have played in a lot of the qualifying games, but nothing is ever certain.
“If I do well in training, then hopefully I will be in the squad.”
And the full-back says he can finally get excited and focus fully on this summer’s tournament after Town finally retained their League One in a relegation battle which went down to the final day of the season.
He added: “I can get excited now. The main aim towards the end of the season was to stay up and now I can look forward to the summer.
“It was a difficult season but we got the job done in the end.
“There were so many games we should have won but didn’t.
“We just need to make sure we are not in that position next season.”