Poor run-in sees Boyce slip out of O’Neill’s plans as Grigg lands spot

The Herald - Herald Sport - - INTERNATIONAL FRIENDLY -

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.”

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