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Stephen Ward has been named in Martin O’Neill’s starting line up for the Republic of Ireland’s game against Belgium this afternoon and in doing so we will see Ward become the first Burnley player ever to play in a Euro Finals game.

I don’t think we expected Tom Heaton to play with Joe Hart the number one choice and Fraser Forster next in line for the goalkeeper’s position, and Sam Vokes has more often than not been used as a substitute for Wales in the past but has not, as yet, been called upon.

Ward was always the most likely to be first and he’s come in at left back on O’Neill’s only change from the team that drew against Sweden in the opening game. For Ward, only our second ever Republic of Ireland international, the first being Keith Treacy, it is a 34th full cap for Ward, his tenth since signing for Burnley.

They talk about the luck of the Irish but they will be hoping today that he proves to be just as big a lucky charm as he is at Burnley. Since arriving from Wolves in August 2014 he’s made 33 league appearances for the Clarets.  We’ve won twenty of those and lost only two, the defeats coming in his second and third starts for us against Everton and Arsenal.

A first Euro Finals player for Burnley but it is not a new experience for Ward; he played all three games for Ireland in the last finals, against Croatia and Italy in Poznań and against Spain in Gdańsk.

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