NI Euro training delight for ace Joel

Joel Cooper pictured during their training session at Parc de Montchervet in St Georges de Reneins, France ahead of the opening Euro 2016 game against Poland on Sunday.
Joel Cooper pictured during their training session at Parc de Montchervet in St Georges de Reneins, France ahead of the opening Euro 2016 game against Poland on Sunday.

Training with the Northern Ireland team as they prepare for their Euro 2016 opener against Poland on Sunday caps a dream season for Joel Cooper.

The Glenavon striker, who signed a two year extension with the Lurgan Blues, flew out to France on Monday along with Linfield’s Paul Smyth to join Michael O’Neill’s squad in Lyon.

This time last year the Ballyclare footballer was pondering on where his football might take him, he joined Glenavon and the rest has been almost like a script from comic book Roy of the Rovers.

Joel was an instant hit with Glenavon and his performances won him international recognition with the Northern Ireland Under 21 side. He also won two major player of the season awards.

“It’s fantastic for him,” enthused Glenavon boss Gary Hamilton. “Michael (O’Neill) has called up two young players who have great potential and bringing them into the squad for the training will help in their development.

“I don’t think this will put Joel in the shop window any more than he already is. You get noticed for what you do on the pitch and if there is to be a move to full time football the best chance for that will come in our two Europa League games.

“Joel will be back with us for both the Derry City and Llandudno friendlies because it is vital we have him match fit like the rest of the squad for the games in Europe.”

Before flying off the France, Joel signed a two year extension that will keep him at Glenavon until 2019.

“It’s a bit scary,” admitted Joel. “I got the call on Saturday morning asking me if I would like to join the squad and take part in the training sessions.

“I can’t really believe it. It’s a fantastic opportunity and I am really looking forward to it.”