Le journal: Steven Beacom’s Euro 2016 France diary

Le Journal: Steven Beacom's Euro 2016 France Diary Belfast Telegraph Sports Editor Steven Beacom’s Euro 2016 diary: Wednesday, June 15 Magilton’s on a tour de France, but it’s definitely not a holiday.

If you want to know about France, the man to ask is Jim Magilton. The former Northern Ireland midfielder and current Irish FA Elite Performance director is touring all around the country during Euro 2016. He’s not on Discount Holidays © holiday you understand, but scouting the teams at the tournament for manager Michael O’Neill. Word has it Jim is loving the gig. Support from Stormont is now a Givan. For Northern Ireland s opening Euro 2016 game against Poland, First Minister Arlene Foster was cheering on Michael O Neill s men. And for the final group match in Paris, when world champions Germany are the opposition, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuiness will be in attendance. Stormont will also be represented tomorrow with Sports Minister Paul Givan in Lyon for the Ukraine match. IFA try to work out if we could benefit from Russian roulette.

When Uefa announced that Russia would be thrown out of Euro 2016 if their fans caused further trouble there was much discussion amongst IFA officials. President Jim Shaw (centre) and Chief Executive Patrick Nelson debated with me how any expulsion would impact on other teams/groups in the tournament. And looking ahead what it would mean for Russia hosting the 2018 World Cup finals Tuesday, June 14. World champion boxer Carl Frampton and renowned actor Jimmy Nesbitt were in good company at Northern Ireland’s first ever European Championship match on Sunday. The two Ulstermen may have been disappointed with their country losing 1-0 to Poland, but at least had the consolation of having a chat with former Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson at Stade de Nice. Tuesday, June 14. Ginola back on the box and fighting fit after heart operation. It was just last month that David Ginola had a quadruple heart bypass operation. The good news is the former Newcastle and Spurs winger has recovered quickly.

The 49-year-old is one of the star presenters on French television for Euro 2016. Ratings are high whenever Ginola is on the box and in case you are wondering he is looking as slick as ever. International legends can talk as well as they played the game Gerry Armstrong is well known for his work on Sky Sports. He is here at the Euro 2016 finals as the BBC television’s expert summariser with Neil Lennon in the studio alongside host Gary Lineker. Belfast Telegraph columnist Norman Whiteside will fill that role for ITV with Iain Dowie acting as co-commentator. All can talk for Northern Ireland as well as they played. Monday, June 13. King Kenny’s special message is well received from biggest fan. Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill received many good luck messages from all around the sporting world ahead of the match against Poland.

He appreciated them all, though one in particular struck a special chord as it came from his childhood hero Kenny Dalglish. O’Neill was a massive Liverpool fan as a kid and idolised the man he calls ‘King Kenny’. Monday, June 13. Boys in blue are members of the Green and White Army in France. A host of Irish League players past and present were in Nice yesterday to cheer on Northern Ireland against Poland. Former Linfield stars William Murphy (left), Stuart King, Stephen Douglas and current Windsor Park hero Jamie Mulgrew were among those who made the trip. They will be at all of Northern Ireland’s group games, so it is next stop Lyon for Thursday’s match with Ukraine. Monday, June 13. Glentoran legend Cleary back on big stage as supporter in Nice.

No Irish League players made Michael O’Neill’s 23-man panel for the Euro 2016 finals. Linfield’s Paul Smyth and Glenavon’s Joel Cooper, however, are training with the squad. For the 1982 World Cup finals in Spain Billy Bingham took four Irish League aces, one of which was Glentoran great Jim Cleary. He was in Nice last night for the game, looking as if he could still play for his country if called upon! Saturday, June 11. Michael keeps bodyguard on his toes with energetic workouts Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill likes to keep himself fit and healthy and enjoys getting out for a run while on international duty. He’s a busy man preparing tactics for the upcoming Euro 2016 clash with Poland but wisely still makes time for a jog to clear his head. Security is so tight here in France though that when he has an energetic workout on the roads near the team base he is joined by a bodyguard. Saturday, June 11.

Hard to keep track of the trains but always a Nice alternative The train strikes here are playing havoc with Euro 2016 travel plans, both for fans and media. Many of us based in Lyon were due on the 7am train to Nice today, but when that was cancelled alternative arrangements had to be made. Kyle Lafferty’s new wife Vanessa and her parents travelled yesterday to Nice with the BBC and your correspondent got a lift with UTV’S Ruth Gorman this morning. Saturday, June 11. All eyes were on Kyle Lafferty at training yesterday to see if he really was fit enough to play against Poland tomorrow. No problem there. After injury worries earlier in the week all was fine. He even pretended he was a horse at one stage. “That’s Kyle. He keeps us entertained,” said team-mate Gareth McAuley.

Here’s to a thoroughbred display against the Poles. Friday, June 10 Le Journal informed you yesterday that Rory McIlroy is hoping to make it to Northern Ireland’s game with Germany. Another big fan, Carl Frampton (left) is planning to take a short break from preparations for his world title fight against Leo Santa Cruz in July in New York to cheer on Michael O’Neill’s men at the Poland game on Sunday. The Amalgamation of Official Northern Ireland Supporters Clubs want the fans to create a ‘Sea of Green’ in Nice for Sunday’s opening Euro match with Poland. They will distribute 8,000 flags and will organise face painting at the Northern Ireland fans’ Embassy at Brasserie des Ponchettes 3, Place Charles Felix in the Cours Saleya area. Get along, go green and enjoy the fun. Friday, June 10 Radio 5 Live and Radio Ulster are joining forces for Northern Ireland’s opening Group C clash against Poland in Nice. Joel Taggart will provide commentary for both stations from the stadium with Gerry Taggart acting as summariser. Radio Ulster will then have a post-match fans phone in, hosted by Michael McNamee with special guest John O’Neill, who played in the 1982 and 1986 World Cups.

Thursday, June 9 Rory McIlroy is hoping to be in Paris to cheer on Northern Ireland against Germany on June 21. The four-time Major champion was at Windsor Park last October when Michael O’Neill’s men qualified and he would love to join the party in France. McIlroy met all the players in Dublin at a training camp the day after he won the Irish Open, a gesture much appreciated by O’Neill. It’s taken a few days, but finally the security question popped up at a Northern Ireland press conference yesterday. On hand to answer it was Craig Cathcart, who likes to keep a tight defence himself. “The security we’ve had has been fantastic, we haven’t had to wait around anywhere, we get to where we need to be. As long as we’re all safe, that’s all we want. They’ve done a great job so far,” he said. Some Northern Ireland supporters received surprise calls yesterday from the team hotel. Captain Steven Davis, Aaron Hughes, Josh Magennis and assistant manager Jimmy Nicholl all phoned up fans to thank them for their support and wish them well on their journey to France.

Not a bad conversation starter. Here, you ll never guess who rang me last night? Wednesday, June 8 The Northern Ireland team were in grand surroundings last night, eating dinner in the Michelin Star Castle at Chateau de Bagnols in the heart of the vineyards of Beaujolais near Lyon. Apparently the Castle is a favourite spot of Hollywood movie star Tom Cruise, who has also stayed in the team s hotel. Wonder if he thinks it is mission impossible for our boys to get out of their group? Wednesday, June 8 Sylvie Epinat made speeches at Chateau de Bagnols last night. Mayor Epinat told Northern Ireland boss Michael O Neill and his players that she hoped they would go all the way to the Euro 2016 final and meet hosts France in the decider. On the menu for dinner was Amuse-bouche, salmon and veal. Wednesday, June 8 At the Euro 2016 finals, Uefa have designated a television reporter to follow each team.

For Northern Ireland it is former Sky Sports and UTV presenter Graham Little, who once took Kyle Lafferty for a training session back in their native Fermanagh. Northern Ireland based journalist Laure James is Uefa s England reporter and has already enjoyed interviewing captain Wayne Rooney. Tuesday, June 7 The Northern Ireland players had their first training session in France yesterday at the picturesque Saint-Georges-de-Reneins. It s a cracking spot, 40 minutes from Lyon, with a carpet of a pitch and high class facilities. Manager Michael O Neill (right) joked: It s a bit different from Chimney Corner! which was one of his first training bases as a Northern Ireland player. Tuesday, June 7 It s all in the name as French journalists are already baffled At the Northern Ireland media centre, beside the team s training pitch, a set of images show how all six counties are represented in the squad. In the frame are Steven Davis (Antrim), Luke McCullough (Armagh), Josh Magennis (Down), Stuart Dallas (Tyrone), Michael McGovern (Fermanagh) and Shane Ferguson (Derry/Londonderry). A French journalist asked me why Shane (left) had two counties!

Northern Ireland’s captain Steven Davis (L) and coach Michael O’Neill (L) attend a training session while water spray at their training ground in Saint George de Reneins on June 6, 2016 during the Euro 2016 football tournament. / AFP PHOTO / PHILIPPE DESMAZESPHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP/Getty Images Tuesday, June 7 Tourist Board making sure the media centre is picture perfect The press conference room in the media centre has been paid for by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board. An IFA source said the Association is receiving an estimated 25,000. In and just outside the room are pictures of notable landmarks including the Giant s Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge (right). Let s hope Northern Ireland s defence isn t as shaky as that! Monday, June 6 Home from home for O Neill and his team… flags are out already The Northern Ireland players spotted a familiar sight last night on their way to their base for the next few weeks. Entering the small village of Pizay outside Lyon, where Michael O Neill (right) and his team are staying, was a Northern Ireland flag fluttering in the breeze. Pizay is renowned for its vineyards but wine is off the menu for the players until they reach the knockout stages! Monday, June 6 Magennis is in a sweat as Aaron rouses the troops after milestone To mark his 100th Northern Ireland cap, Aaron Hughes was asked to give a speech in the dressing room in Slovakia on Saturday night.

Some players suggested Josh Magennis got so emotional that he was wiping away tears following Aaron s address. Magennis revealed: The boys were thinking I was crying after his speech but it was just sweat. I did give him a hug and a kiss and said congratulations . Monday, June 6 Stuart Dallas is on cloud nine right now. It s like all his Christmases have come at once… and in a way they have. The Leeds star got married to childhood sweetheart Juneve on Friday and flew into France last night with the Northern Ireland squad for Euro 2016.

You could say he is in the honeymoon period of life which bodes well for the matches ahead.

Belfast Telegraph Sports Editor Steven Beacom reports from Northern Ireland’s Lyon training camp base.

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