Davis eager to play
Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis has been straining at the leash ahead of tonight's World Cup qualifier against Israel following a week of frustration.
Michael O'Neill's squad met up for a planned double header last Monday but were left kicking their heels in the team hotel as the first match against Russia fell foul of extreme snow on Friday and again on Saturday. That has led to an unexpectedly large period of down time for the players and Southampton midfielder Davis is eager to get back into competitive action.
"We've had a good week's preparation but we are just desperate to play a game," said Davis.
"I hope we can use the frustration of the past week to our advantage because we will be fresh. Given the fact the Russia game was postponed twice we are looking forward to this game even more than normal.
"Sitting around the hotel has been tough as mentally we have been preparing for a game which never happened. After training on Thursday we were pretty much doing nothing on Friday and Saturday, other than waiting on news if the game was on or not.
"The games room in our hotel has been busier than ever and a few of the lads have topped up their skills on the pool table, table tennis and darts. Now we are all looking forward to a good game."
O'Neill was among the first to head to Windsor Park yesterday morning to assess the state of the playing surface and was satisfied with what he saw. A combination of milder weather and hard work from Irish Football Association staff meant that FIFA delegates gave the okay for Israel to complete a pre-match training session at the ground at 5pm.
With concerns about the viability of the game easing, the focus has turned to the result and O'Neill is eager to deliver a good one after a testing few days for everyone in the capital.
"This week we've had power cuts and everything else that was going on in the country, there was a lot more severe things going on other than the fact we couldn't get a football match on," he said. "The weather got the better of us on this occasion. But I always think the players are fully aware and recognise the significance of a positive result.
"We see that with Ulster rugby, we see that with our golfers when they are successful and this is an opportunity for us for a good performance and a good result. If it brightens the nation then that's a nice side effect to have."