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Northern Ireland to build on Euro 2016 spirit with Turkey camp

Michael O'Neill is excited to build upon Northern Ireland's Euro 2016 foundations with a training camp in Turkey in the coming week.

Northern Ireland's appearance in France was their first at a major tournament in 30 years and they made a name for themselves with a surprise run to the last 16 before losing out to eventual semi-finalists Wales.

O'Neill had a number of inexperienced players – including Tom Flanagan, Shay McCartan and Paul Paton – in his squad for Friday's 1-0 home victory over New Zealand, but he still sees evidence of the team spirit taken away from the European Championship.

Ahead of next Saturday's World Cup qualifier against Azerbaijan in Baku, Northern Ireland will conduct their preparations in Turkey – something O'Neill hopes can improve their chances of finishing their bid for a place at Russia 2018 strongly.

"It's vital for us, really. Normally if you have them for nine days you've got to deal with two games and you've got to deal with travel, so it's a huge challenge," O'Neill told BBC Sport. "You tend to have to do all your preparation in the first three or four days.

"I think the time we had in France was invaluable to us. I still see the benefits of that in the team and this [the Turkey training camp] is another layer of preparation.

"We're going to be down with Craig Cathcart unfortunately unavailable to us due to injury, we're going to be down seven of our outfield players that were in France, so that's a big chunk of our squad that we had in the Euros – on top of that Chris Baird is no longer playing international football.

"So we have to find new players in that situation and the players that came in gave me something to think about."

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O'Neill was particularly pleased for Liam Boyce, who opened his international account on the back of a season that saw the Ross County striker top the Scottish Premiership scoring charts before being replaced by Kyle Lafferty at half-time.

He said: "I'm delighted for him. It's important to score your first international goal, particularly as a striker. He came in and he took it extremely well, his all-round play was excellent.

"We just protected him a little bit, he had a little bit of tightness in his hip flexor so we didn't want to take any chances with him.

"In the 45 minutes he was on the pitch I think you saw a player at the top of his game."