Lafferty takes off Best in Belfast

Belfast (AFP) – Kyle Lafferty is not normally mentioned in the same breath as Northern Irish football legend George Best but on Sunday he replaced him for one day in the title of Belfast airport.

The 28-year-old striker — who scored seven goals in Northern Ireland’s Euro 2016 qualifying campaign — will lead the attack in their opening match at the finals against Poland on Sunday in Nice, France.

It will be Northern Ireland’s first appearance at a major finals since the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.

“George Best was one of the greatest footballers the world has ever seen and we hope that this name change for the day will help inspire Kyle to glory against Poland and in the rest of the tournament,” an airport spokesperson told The Belfast Telegraph.

Lafferty, who passed a fitness test on a groin injury on Friday is also emblazoned on posters at the airport featuring him smiling and holding his arms in the air.

Such is the football fever in Northern Ireland that their best known sportsman of the moment four-time golf major winner Rory McIlroy recorded a motivational speech for the squad which they listened to on Saturday.

“Tomorrow you will write the next chapter in our long and famous sporting story,” said McIlroy, who is unable to be there because of his golfing commitments.

“When you walk out at that stadium in Nice, take a moment to think about our sporting icons, what they achieved, and how this is your chance to take your place alongside them.

“Feel the pride of what it means to represent your country with the world watching.” added the 27-year-old, who also visited the squad’s pre-tournament training camp.