Wednesday 21 March 2018

N Ireland in good spirits - Carroll

Roy Carroll believes Northern Ireland can triumph over Portugal despite their injury crisis
Roy Carroll believes Northern Ireland can triumph over Portugal despite their injury crisis

Goalkeeper Roy Carroll accepts Northern Ireland's injury crisis at the back is a problem but believes there is still enough experience in the squad to hand Portugal a second bloody nose on Friday.

Manager Michael O'Neill faces the unwelcome prospect of hosting Cristiano Ronaldo et al without three of the four defenders who kept Russia at bay in a shock 1-0 win last month.

Daniel Lafferty is suspended and Craig Cathcart never made it to Belfast due to a knee problem, while Aaron Hughes is rated as a major doubt due to a groin strain.

Lafferty's likely deputy Ryan McGivern also missed training on Wednesday to increase O'Neill's headache, but Carroll can rely on the steadying influence of Gareth McAuley and the returning Jonny Evans in front of him.

"It's pretty bad. We have three players missing from the last game but it is international football, and that is what happens," the veteran shot-stopper said.

"The boys will be in for it and they're still on a high from the last game so we will see what happens.

"It's always difficult changing the back four but it needs experience and I have been around for so long. We have two Premier League players in the middle of defence, Jonny Evans and 'Big G' (McAuley) as well."

Niall McGinn, the Aberdeen forward whose goal gave Northern Ireland a 1-1 draw against Portugal in the reverse fixture in October, was equally optimistic in the face of adversity.

McGinn was not even a regular starter when he put his side ahead in Porto, ruining the occasion of Ronaldo's 100th cap in the process.

Helder Postiga equalised in the last 10 minutes to salvage something for his side, but it was a big moment for the visitors.

"It was a massive result," McGinn said.

"A lot of things came into it... Ronaldo's 100th cap, playing Portugal in their back yard and the fact that no-one gave us a chance.

"Ronaldo's one of best players in world, he'll be renowned for reaching that milestone of 100 caps for Portugal so for a a wee country boy like me from Donaghmore to score on a special night for him was fantastic.

"The boys came away disappointed not to win the game in the end but we know, being realistic, that to come away with a point was fantastic."

Rotherham's midfielder Michael O'Connor, meanwhile, has jokingly suggested he might put a dampener on Ronaldo's spirits in a different way.

The 25-year-old, back in the international fold after a three-year absence, is not expected to feature barring further injury but made it clear who he would make a beeline for should he make the side.

"I wouldn't mind putting him (Ronaldo) on his a**e, making a name for myself," he laughed.

"I just want to play. I don't mind if I play against Luxembourg or against Portugal. I just want to get the shirt on.

"You definitely appreciate it more, having been out. I honestly never thought I would play again.

"It was a frustrating couple of years watching all the games on TV and I didn't think I would be back in the squad."

Press Association

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