McCullough sets goal for EURO 2016 experience

Portadown-born Luke McCullough (left) and Conor Washington during a Northern Ireland training session in France for EURO 2016. Pic by PressEye Ltd.
Portadown-born Luke McCullough (left) and Conor Washington during a Northern Ireland training session in France for EURO 2016. Pic by PressEye Ltd.

Luke McCullough has spent this week in France working towards the target of his landmark call-up to EURO 2016 as a starting point not a career pinnacle.

Selection for Northern Ireland’s European Championships campaign has secured McCullough’s status as one of the finest 23 players in the country - and a first from Portadown to represent the nation in a major football finals.

However, the Doncaster Rovers defender remains determined to return from the experience having added to his current haul of five senior caps thanks to on-pitch playing time alongside the overall learning opportunity.

“I am hoping being part of the EURO 2016 experience with Northern Ireland will help my development as a player,” said McCullough from the team camp in the Lyon area. “I’m getting to train alongside some quality defenders, after all.

“I am determined to be ready to play my part in games if called upon to do so.

“Naturally, the players are excited and I have not seen many nerves.

“Everyone is pretty relaxed and that’s the way the manager likes it, with the mood in the camp definitely good.”

The final week of preparations before kick-off for Northern Ireland on Sunday against Poland in Nice has provided McCullough and his team-mates a taste of tournament life.

“On arrival in Lyon we were greeted by local dignitaries, our team hotel is incredible and each individual player’s room includes pictures of family and inspirational images,” he said. “The hotel has everything we need, including a games room, gym, swimming pool and tennis court.

“Our training pitch is about 10 minutes from the hotel by coach and our hosts have done a great job, alongside Irish FA staff.

“We all join together for a leisurely breakfast, usually from 9 o’clock, before training at Parc de Montchervet after 11 o’clock for about 90 minutes.

“We have lunch back at the hotel then rest, with downtime in the evenings and a team meeting across the day.

“In the afternoon we might do some gym work or perhaps have a massage.

“The manager has encouraged us to stay in touch with our families.”