Tuesday 25 July 2017

Worthington 'realistic' about North chances after naming depleted side

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

After all of the high-profile recent visitors to Dublin, most natives will probably welcome the news that the majority of Northern Ireland fans are boycotting tonight's clash at the Aviva Stadium.

It's nothing personal, but the city seems all out of love for guests who require hefty security operations.

While the IFA and supporters' groups are at loggerheads over the restriction of travel to official buses and the cost of those buses for the game, meaning only an estimated 300 fans will travel south for the first clash between the teams in 12 years, the players and manager Nigel Worthington were at pains to respect their supporters' wishes.

And after so many came south to watch their young side be humbled by Scotland on their last Carling Nations Cup outing, it would be difficult to blame the fans from staying away.

Again, Worthington is working with depleted options. With no qualifiers until August, the North have had a number of cry-offs for a variety of reasons, from tiredness to Pat McCourt's wedding. It means the manager will go with an experimental side, including 17-year-old debutant Josh Carson.

Awkward

"We'd love to go out and try and win the game," said Worthington. "But at the same time we've got to be realistic with the group we've got. The two games at this time of the season are very awkward. The Republic have got a qualifying game, so they will have pretty much all their big players around about the squad.

"We've got players who have played 50-odd games in the season and they need a rest. We have got players who are getting married. I've got players with injuries. You have got to be fair."

It wouldn't be a Northern Ireland press conference without the thorny issue of player eligibility rearing its head after the recent defections of Shane Ferguson and Daniel Devine south of the border, and Worthington has strong views on the issue, warning young players that opportunities may be limited with Giovanni Trapattoni.

"I am a big believer that you represent the country you were born into," he said.

"Some of those youngsters might not play. Now Darron Gibson is part of it. Some of the others who have gone are not even close. Once a youngster is capped in a qualifier, that's him tied to that country. If some players get tied up early on, some might never kick another ball internationally."

NORTHERN IRELAND -- Blayney (Linfield); Thompson (Watford), Hodgson (Watford), Cathcart (Blackpool), McAuley (West Brom); Klingan (Coventry), Davis (Rangers), Carson (Ipswich), Gorman (Wolves); Feeney (Oldham), McQuoid (Milwall).

Irish Independent

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