Healy buoyed by Northern Ireland’s Euro 2016 qualifying draw

Former Northern Ireland striker David Healy
Former Northern Ireland striker David Healy

David Healy believes Northern Ireland have a “fighting chance” of qualifying for the 2016 Euro finals in France.

Michael O’Neill’s side have been pitted with Greece, Hungary, Romania, Finland and the Faroe Islands in Group F.

The top two teams will qualify for the finals, while the third-placed nation in each group will progress to a play-off.

And former Northern Ireland striker Healy believes O’Neill’s men could be in the mix at the end of the group fixtures.

“It’s a big challenge trying to secure one of the top two spots, but I think a third placed finish is definitely up for grabs,” Healy said.

“A 15 or 16 point target for third is achievable. No doubt about that.

“I’m sure everyone will be working out the various permutations. They’ll be thinking if we can take three points here, a draw there and so on. Five wins or four wins and three draws in the pool gets us to 15 points, so it is achievable.”

Healy – who scored 36 goals in 95 international caps – retired from football back in December, but is currently part of Northern Ireland’s underage coaching set-up.

And the country’s record goalscorer believes senior manager O’Neill will be buoyed by last Sunday’s draw in Nice.

“Given that we were in Pot 5 it has to go down as a good draw,” he said.

“Without being disrespectful, if you’d hand picked the top two seeds, you’d have gone for Greece and Hungary.

“The other nations won’t fancy coming to Belfast either. They’ll have done their homework and they’ll know what we’re capable of at home.

“They’ll have looked at us beating Russia and running Portugal close in the last campaign.

“The fact 24 teams and not 16 qualify for the Euro 2016 finals will be a huge incentive for the players.

“So hopefully they can go out and give it their best shot.”