PA Sport

Steven Davis determined to make history with Northern Ireland

Steven Davis determined to make history with Northern Ireland
By PA Sport

08/10/2015 at 07:13Updated 08/10/2015 at 07:19

Captain Steven Davis will be delighted when the talking finally stops and his Northern Ireland side get the chance to make history against Greece.

A month ago Northern Ireland lined up against Hungary knowing victory would take them to a first ever European Championship next summer and end the nation's 30-year exile from major tournaments.

In the end they needed a stoppage-time equaliser from Kyle Lafferty to come away with a draw, meaning all eyes immediately turned to Thursday evening's Windsor Park clash.

The buzz from Belfast, and beyond, has been palpable for Davis and his team-mates ever since and now he is ready for action.

"It would be huge for us to qualify, you can't underestimate how big it would be but it is hard to put into words," said the Southampton midfielder.

"We just can't wait to get back out there and that's been the case since the final whistle against Hungary.

"We're embracing it. I don't think there's any nerves, it's excitement in the build-up to the game. There is an opportunity there for someone to go and write their name in the history books."

Manager Michael O'Neill, whose own eight-year international career came in the fallow years following 1986, knows better than most the significance of getting over the line but is prepared to wait if he has to.

Should the stars fail to align on Thursday, there is another opportunity awaiting in Finland three days later and O'Neill does not mind when the magic moment comes - as long as it does.

"These players can write their legacy if they go to a major tournament, (but) we've outlined to the players all week that if we have to go to the 90th minute on Sunday night we're prepared to do that," said the Northern Ireland boss.

"If for some reason the result isn't what we hoped for against Greece, we have to recover and be ready to play again.

"We get two bites at this which is a nice position to be in but obviously we want to do it at the first attempt. We genuinely believe we can take care of it and we certainly want to do it here in front of our home supporters."

Northern Ireland are short of full strength with Jonny Evans ruled out with a hamstring problem, and seven-goal top-scorer Lafferty suspended alongside Conor McLaughlin and Chris Baird.

But O'Neill does have Jamie Ward fit again, with Aaron Hughes, Paddy McNair and Josh Magennis also vying for a starting spot in front of a sold-out 12,000 crowd.

"Obviously the injury to Jonny at the weekend was a blow but one thing I have noticed in those three days, maybe more so than in the past, is that the squad is stronger now than at any time I've been in charge," said bullish O'Neill.

"I genuinely believe that we have the players to step in and deal with Jonny not being available, and also with the suspensions we have as well."