France the focus now for NI ace McCullough

The Northern Ireland team celebrates at Windsor Park following the win against Greece that secured EURO 2016 qualification. Pic by PressEye Ltd.
The Northern Ireland team celebrates at Windsor Park following the win against Greece that secured EURO 2016 qualification. Pic by PressEye Ltd.
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Luke McCullough has spent this week coming to terms with his part in Northern Ireland history - and is determined to add to those happy memories next summer at EURO 2016.

The Portadown-born defender finished last week’s landmark qualifying game against Greece on the Windsor Park pitch as Northern Ireland progressed to a first European Championships.

Now the target is to continue his progress and secure a spot in the final squad by producing at club level for Doncaster Rovers.

Selection for EURO 2016 would give McCullough a special place in Portadown’s rich sporting heritage as the first player from the town to represent Northern Ireland at a major international tournament.

McCullough is the fifth town player to gain full international caps but none of the previous four - Harry Johnston, Davy Cochrane, current manager Michael O’Neill and Keith Rowland - were involved in Northern Ireland’s World Cup campaigns of 1958, 1982 and 1986.

“It was back to my normal routine at training this week with Doncaster but I certainly have some amazing memories from the Greece and Finland games,” said the 21-year-old. “It all happened so quickly, from missing out before due to injury then making my comeback for Doncaster and getting a recall ahead of coming on as a substitute against Greece.

“I was buzzing to get out on the pitch at Windsor Park and the atmosphere was brilliant, with everyone determined to get us over the line.

“It has been surreal to be honest and it will probably take some time for those moments to really sink in.

“I want that seat on the plane to France and, hopefully, my form for Doncaster can help make it happen.”

McCullough has plans to travel to France as a player or fan, with many of his friends and family already having booked flights.

“It is going to be some experience in France and walking around Windsor Park at the end I could see quite a few faces from Portadown,” he said. “I know loads back home have been making plans.

“There is a long way to go but, fingers crossed, I can earn my place and take that final step.”