EURO 2016 QUALIFIERS: Michael O’Neill believes early check-in will keep any celebrations under control

Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill
Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill

Michael O’Neill believes an early check-in will keep Northern Ireland’s celebrations under control if they manage to book their Euro 2016 place on Thursday night.

Should O’Neill’s side beat Greece at Windsor Park - or Hungary fail to defeat the Faroe Islands - the full-time whistle would usher in a party 30 years in the making.

It has been almost three decades since Northern Ireland appeared at a major tournament, the 1986 World Cup, and the Green and White Army can be relied upon to paint Belfast red.

The players might also allow themselves to savour the moment, but with a flight to Helsinki booked for Friday morning, for the final Group F qualifier, O’Neill has a simple rule that should keep things sensible.

“We’ve told the players if they aren’t on the plane to Finland, they won’t be on the plane to France and that is the only sort of curfew we can enforce!” he said with a smile.

“That’s really the only stick I can beat them with, to be fair.

“We are on a plane on Friday morning at 10am but it would be lovely to celebrate on Thursday night.

“If we are successful I am sure the stadium won’t empty in a hurry but at the moment the focus is on the game and you don’t think about anything else.”

O’Neill drew some mirth last month when Kyle Lafferty’s stoppage-time equaliser against Hungary saw him respond with an uncharacteristically joyful jig.

Emotions will be even higher should his side go one better this time, but he does not expect a repeat performance on the touchline.

“I’ve no idea what I would do to celebrate. Given the stick I’ve had since the last game I will probably get myself into the dressing room in case I embarrass myself even further,” he said.

“If you look at the bench after the goal it was amazing. I think that was the only run Kyle made in the second half and the players were all chasing him, but that shows the emotions of it.

“Hopefully we’ll all be celebrating.”