McCullough makes history with NI call for EURO 2016

Portadown-born Luke McCullough (left) as part of the Northern Ireland party on the plane to Austria for EURO 2016 preparations. Pic by Pacemaker.
Portadown-born Luke McCullough (left) as part of the Northern Ireland party on the plane to Austria for EURO 2016 preparations. Pic by Pacemaker.

Luke McCullough left Northern Ireland this week having secured a seat on the plane to EURO 2016 - and spot in Portadown’s history books.

Confirmation for McCullough in the international panel proved a landmark moment for the player and the town.

McCullough will head off to France as the first player from Portadown to ever represent Northern Ireland at a major finals.

Past tournament appearances by Northern Ireland at World Cup finals in 1958, 1982 and 1986 failed to feature anyone born in the town.

“I am very proud and to step out on the pitch at the European Championships would prove the pinnacle of my career,” said McCullough. “So much has happened over the past two years since my full international debut against Uruguay.

“I want to make the most of every moment and take everything possible from the experience.

“Michael (O’Neill) told me I had impressed everyone in training and now I must be ready if called on in France.

“A big part of our success comes down to how everyone is considered equal in the squad and every player must be ready.

“We have been in Austria this week for our training camp and final friendly on Saturday against Slovakia before heading over to France.

“The whole experience has been amazing so far, with the support from my friends and family just brilliant.

“Now it is about our preparations together and we must treat each game as a normal football match.”

The nation’s European Championships debut will kick off on Sunday, June 12 in Nice against Poland. Ukraine provide the opposition on Thursday, June 16 in Lyon before the final group test against Germany in Paris on Tuesday, June 21.

Keith Rowland was the last player from Portadown to pick up a senior cap, thanks to a successful top-flight club career in the 1990s.

McCullough’s international manager, Michael O’Neill, was born in Portadown but left the town as a young boy.

Frank McCourt represented Northern Ireland in the 1950s - with Michael Cochrane, Harry Johnston and Davy Cochrane each selected for Ireland.

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