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O'Neill gives himself options

Published 28/08/2014 | 11:51

Michael O'Neill's men begin their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign in Hungary
Michael O'Neill's men begin their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign in Hungary

Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill has named a bumper 26-man squad for his side's first Euro 2016 qualifier against Hungary next month, with the suspended Jonny Evans the only notable absentee.

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Evans has been struggling with a leg injury and made his first appearance of the season when captaining Manchester United in their embarrassing 4-0 defeat by MK Dons in the Capital One Cup this week.

He sits out the international following his red card against Azerbaijan in October.

Evans gifted the League One Dons their opening goal of the cup game and the two men who combined to punish the mistake - Ben Reeves and Will Grigg - are both in O'Neill's squad.

A handful of senior players who missed the summer tour of South America, including Chris Brunt, Gareth McAuley, Kyle Lafferty and Jamie Ward, all make their comebacks for the Sunday, September 7 match in Budapest.

With Evans absent and O'Neill expected to stick with his preferred 3-5-2 formation, the group is packed with defensive options - including seven players capable of operating at centre-half.

Up front, Lafferty is back after returning to English football with Norwich.

Strikers James Gray and Liam Boyce, midfielder Jonny Steele and teenage defender Liam Donnelly drop out of the squad that travelled to Uruguay and Chile at the end of last season.

R Carroll (Notts County), A Mannus (St Johnstone), M McGovern (Hamilton), A Hughes (Brighton), C Baird, G McAuley (both West Brom), C Cathcart (Watford), D Lafferty (Burnley), R McLaughlin (Liverpool), C McLaughlin (Fleetwood), L McCullough (Doncaster), A Bruce (Hull), S Davis (Southampton), C Brunt (West Brom), S Clingan (Kilmarnock), C Evans (Blackburn), O Norwood (Reading), S Ferguson (Newcastle), P Paton (Dundee Utd), B Reeves (MK Dons), K Lafferty (Norwich), N McGinn (Aberdeen), J Ward (Derby), B McKay (Inverness), J Magennis (Kilmarnock), W Grigg (MK Dons)

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