Euro 2016: Kyle Lafferty back on training pitch with Northern Ireland

Euro 2016: Kyle Lafferty's fitness fears ease for NI ahead of Poland opener
Euro 2016
Host: France Dates: 10 June to 10 July
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Kyle Lafferty trained with the Northern Ireland team on Friday morning, easing fears about his fitness ahead of Sunday's Euro 2016 opener with Poland.

Lafferty picked up a groin injury in training on Tuesday and sat out Wednesday's session as a precaution.

He jogged onto the training pitch at Saint-Georges-de-Reneins and said afterwards that he was "feeling good".

"I did a few runs and a few twists and turns and it feels great. I've never felt better," said Lafferty, 28.

Lafferty 'feared the worst'

The Norwich striker acknowledged that he "feared the worst" after picking up the injury on Tuesday.

"When it happened, I had the sharpest pain in my groin. But as that day went on, it started feeling better and better.

"I came through it and then got the scan results which were all clear."

Friday morning's session was the squad's last before heading to Nice for the Group C opener.

The players were given Thursday off by manager Michael O'Neill but were back on the training pitch on Friday morning and Lafferty, whose seven goals were instrumental in getting Northern Ireland to Euro 2016, looked to be in good spirits as he took part in stretches and the warm-up.

Kyle Lafferty has scored 17 goals in 51 appearances for Northern Ireland
Kyle Lafferty has scored 17 goals in 51 appearances for Northern Ireland

McIlroy fears opposition will target Lafferty

Former Northern Ireland manager Sammy McIlroy has questioned Lafferty's temperament and says he must not react to opponents' attempts to unsettle him.

Lafferty has only played four domestic games all season and while match fitness is a concern for McIlroy, he is more worried about how the 28-year-old might react to provocation in the physical exchanges.

"He is our main man and defences know that," he told BBC Five Live.

"I think they can wind him up, get into him, and he will react.

"He's that type of fellow and I just hope Michael can keep him under control because if we lose him with retaliation or something off the ball that he can get involved in, that could be a big blow.

"So I hope he keeps his head and does what he has done throughout the campaign and that's score goals."

Sammy McIlroy made 88 appearances for Northern Ireland between 1972 and 1987
Sammy McIlroy made 88 appearances for Northern Ireland between 1972 and 1987

A place in the last sixteen beckons

McIlroy, capped 88 times for Northern Ireland, managed his country between 2000 and 2003 in lean years for the international team.

He admires the job Michael O'Neill has done in leading the side to a first appearance at the European finals and suggested the players could go one step further and reach the knockout stages.

"It's a tough group, but teams are going to have to play well to beat us.

"The spirit among the boys is fantastic. It reminds me of our 1982 and 1986 [World Cup] teams and they are also very well organised.

"If we can get a point against Poland in the first game, then the team to beat is Ukraine. If we can win that I could see us sneak third place."

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