Poor run-in sees Boyce slip out of O’Neill’s plans as Grigg lands spot
MICHAEL O’NEILL, the Northern Ireland manager, has revealed 20-goal striker Liam Boyce was omitted from his Euro 2016 squad in favour of Will Grigg because of the striker’s poor second half of the season.
The biggest call O’Neill had to make ahead of France was whether to include Ross County forward Boyce or Wigan’s Grigg as the final option in a group of forwards also featuring Kyle Lafferty, Conor Washington and Josh Magennis.
At the turn of the year, Boyce’s 17 goals looked to have secured his place on the plane, but Grigg’s 20-goal tally since January compared to his rival’s return of three ultimately swayed O’Neill by the time he announced his 23-man squad on Saturday.
O’Neill also highlighted Boyce’s disappointing performance in his club’s Scottish League Cup final in March as evidence of why he came to his conclusion.
“Liam’s a really good lad, he’s a quiet lad and he said he couldn’t really have any complaints,” O’Neill said.
“He had a really good first half of the season and unfortunately the second half of the season he didn’t get to the same levels.
“He had a hand injury which affected him and I saw him on a number of occasions. I watched him in the League Cup final for Ross County and, although they won on the day, he didn’t have one of his better days by his own admission. That’s where you’re wanting players to really step up.
“But Liam will come again. If I’m naming a 27-man squad for the first World Cup qualifier in Czech Republic, Liam will be in that squad.”