O'Neill plays down McLaughlin rift
Published 19/05/2014 | 15:57
Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill insists there is no problem between him and teenage defender Ryan McLaughlin.
Uncapped Liverpool right-back McLaughlin has returned to O'Neill's squad for the away friendlies against Uruguay on May 30 and Chile on June 4 after last year making himself unavailable for international duty in a bid to focus on his club career.
O'Neill was quoted in 2013 as saying he did not understand the rationale behind the 19-year-old's decision to turn down the opportunity to play for Northern Ireland.
McLaughlin - who is yet to feature for Liverpool but made a first-team breakthrough in 2013-14 with Barnsley on loan - is now back in the fold, however.
O'Neill said: "Ryan's situation has been very well documented but my conversations with him have been ongoing.
"I have never fallen out with players for being unavailable for whatever reasons and I'm not going to start now.
"The conversations I have had with Ryan recently have been very positive and he said he would like to be considered for the summer tour to South America, if selected.
"I am very much thinking long-term and Ryan understands that and was happy to make himself available which is terrific for us.
"He is delighted to be back involved in the international set-up and I am delighted to have him.
"Players have a lot to deal with these days but there has never been any issue with Ryan.
"The situation was quite simple; he didn't think being away from Liverpool to go on international duty would be beneficial to him.
"Having gone on loan to Barnsley I think he has seen what it could do for him and his development."
McLaughlin is one of five uncapped players in the experimental 22-man squad O'Neill has chosen.
Goalkeeper Trevor Carson, defensive duo Luke McCullough and Liam Donnelly and midfielder Paul Paton are the others in the party yet to make a senior international appearance.
Portsmouth's former Sunderland stopper Carson has also been in the squad before and has represented Northern Ireland B.
Twenty-year-old ex-Manchester United academy member McCullough has been playing for Doncaster over the past season, while Donnelly, 18, is part of the youth set-up at Fulham that has been gaining considerable attention of late.
Dundee United's Paton was called into the last squad, for the goalless friendly draw in Cyprus in March, as a replacement for Sammy Clingan.
There are several experienced campaigners who are back after missing the Cyprus game in QPR's Aaron Hughes, fellow defender Chris Baird - now at Burnley - and Blackburn midfielder Corry Evans.
Another midfielder, New York Red Bulls' Jonny Steele, has also been recalled, and Kilmarnock's Clingan is included again.
But O'Neill is without a host of players, such as West Brom duo Gareth McAuley and Chris Brunt and Hull's Alex Bruce, who came off with an injury in Saturday's FA Cup final defeat to Arsenal.
Kyle Lafferty was not considered as his season with Palermo is still ongoing in Italy - O'Neill has stressed the striker is going to be a "big part" of his plans ahead of the forthcoming Euro 2016 qualifying campaign - and with midfielder Paddy McCourt currently without a club and defender Craig Cathcart's future with Blackpool uncertain, they were not included either.
O'Neill added: "We have a few players carrying injuries. Jonny Evans has had problems since around November time and played about one game in the last three months of the season.
"He came off against Everton when he wasn't fully fit and there would have been no point calling him up as Manchester United would not have been keen to release him.
"Lee Hodson has been struggling with a hip problem and Ben Reeves didn't play for the last five games of the season or so and they are disappointed to miss out."
Meanwhile, it has been reported that Sheffield Wednesday striker Caolan Lavery is not in the squad because he has decided to attend a family wedding instead.
And O'Neill said: "A few players (said they were unavailable) as they had a family wedding or other plans at that time.
"Some opted not to try to change those commitments to play against Uruguay and Chile and that is disappointing."