Football/Soccer

Billy McKay battling for a Northern Ireland striking slot

BILLY McKay knows he is running out of time to secure a seat on Northern Ireland's plane to the Euros but he's determined to impress before Saturday's squad announcement.

The 27-year-old appears to be battling with his erstwhile Wigan Athletic colleague Will Grigg and SPL rival Liam Boyce for a striker's slot along with Kyle Lafferty, Josh Magennis, Jamie Ward, and Conor Washington.

Fringe players may get their chance in the home friendly with Belarus tomorrow night but McKay accepts he has had plenty of opportunities in recent years:

"I've been in nearly every squad for three or four years but I know I'm one of the lads who's probably touch and go whether I'm going, so I just have to impress Michael [O'Neill]…

"Like Boycie said, it's just up to us now. We were in training last week and in with everyone this week, so it's up to us to impress Michael now to get a spot on that plane."

Manager Michael O'Neill is unlikely to indulge in wholesale experimentation as he will be keen to continue a 10-match unbeaten run and maintain continuity among first choice players.

McKay accepts it's tough to balance the needs of the team and also impress as an individual:

"It is quite hard, obviously, because Michael is preparing things for the game on Friday and the tournament, and looking at certain players.

"If he sets out a team and you're not in it, even in training, you're a bit disappointed because it's a chance missed to impress.

"But we've had plenty of chances over the season and we'll get plenty of chances in training, we had plenty of chances last week to show him what we can do.

"I'm sure he knows what we all can do and I think by now he has in the back of his mind what squad he's going to have.

"We've still got a couple of days left, maybe we can change his mind – we just have to try our best. I'll try and make sure I'm on the plane.

Although he scored 10 league goals in 21 appearaances in the season just finished in a struggling Dundee United side that ended up relegated from the Scottish top flight he still wasn't satisfied with his showings:

"Yeah, I was [scoring goals], but I was bit disappointed how I did overall. I would have liked a better season before coming into this selection process. I've had really good years before that so hopefully that has done enough to get me into the squad."

Whether or not he makes the cut, though, McKay is confident that Northern Ireland can achieve "a lot" in France next month, saying:

"I think we're probably going there a bit as underdogs in our group but we were in the qualifying group and look how we did – we won the group.

"If people under-estimate us that will be their problem. I think out there we're going to show up an awful lot of teams".

Football/Soccer

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