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July 20 2017 10:16 AM
Northern Ireland international Corry Evans hopes his injury nightmares are behind him as he looks to prove his fitness to Michael O'Neill before September's crucial World Cup qualifiers.
Evans has been a regular fixture under O'Neill and started three of the four games at Euro 2016.
But a persistent groin problem, which forced him to miss the second half of last season with Blackburn, has restricted him to just two appearances in this World Cup qualification campaign.
The 26-year-old, now a League One player following Rovers' relegation, was impressive when starting his first game in seven months in a pre-season friendly against York on Tuesday and though he knows he has to tread carefully with his injury, he is upbeat about his current condition.
"The last six months have been really frustrating for myself," Evans told Press Association Sport.
"I missed the second half of the season. You're going to games and you want to be involved and you can't do anything. It's hard to describe the frustration I had last season.
"I'm feeling good now and I'm just concentrating on staying fit and getting as many minutes as I can pre-season and building myself up for the first game. That's the main aim at the minute.
"Throughout pre-season the physios and sports-science team and manager (Tony Mowbray) have been managing my loads.
"If I'm feeling a bit stiff or doing too much in one day they'll pull me out of one of the sessions, and I'll just rest up and recover and try to get myself fit for the long term instead of just the short term.
"The manager spoke to me and he had a similar injury when he was playing so he knows the ins and outs, frustration and aches and pains you do get. It's good that he has that knowledge to understand."
His other manager, international boss O'Neill, will be keen to see how Evans fares at the start of the season given Northern Ireland's double header against San Marino and the Czech Republic in September.
Northern Ireland are in a strong place in Group C and could secure second spot, and a likely play-off place, if results go their way in those fixtures.
Asked if he was targeting an international recall then, Evans replied: " It' s something that I'm not really looking as far as. I'm just concentrating on getting through pre-season and getting out of pre-season into the games fully fit.
"If I'm feeling good I'll start to look ahead towards the qualifiers because obviously it's a massive two games for us and we could potentially clinch a play-off spot if everything goes our way. It's going to be massive for us but I'm just concentrating on staying fit at the moment.
"The last few years have been surreal from following Northern Ireland at a young age to think where we are now, the highest ever world ranking (22nd), reaching the Euros.
"If we clinch that second spot with two games to spare, who knows, we could be on our way to the World Cup next summer. It's crazy to think that.
"I think the whole country's still on a buzz from the Euros and there's a good feel factor around the team, the country and the fans. It's all looking really well for Northern Ireland at the minute."