Liam Boyce has more reason than most Northern Ireland players to be desperate to qualify for Euro 2020.
Michael O’Neill’s team are looking to repeat the trick after reaching Euro 2016 - their first ever European Championships - but while most members of the squad have fond memories of playing in France, Boyce missed out on selection all together.
Now the 27-year-old, fit again after a injury-wrecked first season in the Championship last year, is champing at the bit to help Northern Ireland in the UEFA Nations League and the Euro 2020 qualifiers to come.
“It’s massive,” he said of his motivation. “I was so close to making the 2016 squad, but obviously I had a poor second half to the season and just missed out.
“I knew I was less than 50-50 to make the squad. I think I only scored two, in the last two games of the season, and (Will) Griggsy was banging in goals so you sort of know it’s coming, even though you have that glimmer of hope.”
Boyce just has to listen as his team-mates swap stories from the tournament while together in Northern Ireland’s training camps, but he is not bitter, not least as missing the competition allowed him to be at home as he became a father.
“The players have great memories from a major tournament final, I’m not going to begrudge anyone for playing better than me at the time,” he said.
“I actually had my daughter the day of the first game (against Poland in Nice), so that helped take my mind off it.”