Friday 20 September 2019

Few surprises in Northern Ireland squad

Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty (centre) helped secure qualification for the Euro 2016 finals.
Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty (centre) helped secure qualification for the Euro 2016 finals.

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill produced few surprises when naming his squad for the friendly against Latvia at Windsor Park on November 13.

O'Neill guided Northern Ireland into the Euro 2016 finals following a successful qualifying campaign at the top of Group F, securing a place at a major championships for the first time in 30 years.

Manchester United defender Paddy McNair suffered an abdominal injury in the last competitive match against Finland, so remains out.

Leading scorer Kyle Lafferty retains his place despite continuing to find club chances at Norwich limited.

There was, though, no recall for striker Martin Paterson, who has just returned to English football with Blackpool after an injury-ruined spell in Major League Soccer with Orlando City, while defender Aaron Hughes, now playing in Australia with Melbourne, misses the chance to close up on 100 caps.

With a relatively small squad selected, defender Ryan McLaughlin, on loan at Aberdeen from Liverpool, has not been called up to join from the under-21s.

Northern Ireland squad to face Latvia: R Carroll (Notts County), M McGovern (Hamilton), A Mannus (St Johnstone); Baird (Derby), G McAuley (West Brom), J Evans (West Brom), C Cathcart (Watford), S Ferguson (Millwall), L Hodson (MK Dons), C McLaughlin (Fleetwood); , S Davis (Southampton), C Brunt (West Brom), C Evans (Blackburn), O Norwood (Reading), P McCourt (Luton), S Dallas (Leeds); K Lafferty (Norwich), N McGinn (Aberdeen), J Ward (Nottm Forest), J Magennis (Kilmarnock), B McKay (Dundee Utd), W Grigg (Wigan), L Boyce (Ross County).

O'Neill's contract expires following the European Championships.

The 46-year-old was appointed in December 2011, having guided Dublin-based League of Ireland club Shamrock Rovers to the group stages of the Europa League.

The one-time Newcastle, Dundee and Wigan midfielder had been linked with another of his former clubs Hibernian before making the step into international management.

While O'Neill makes no secret of his desire to one day return to club coaching, he also refused to rule out staying in his current role.

"Anything is concevable in football, but one thing you have to look at as a manager is it is dangerous if you look too far ahead in football and my focus at the moment is on preparing the squad for the Euros," O'Neill said to BBC Northern Ireland when asked if he had thought about remaining in charge after Euro 2016.

"I have had discussions with the IFA and they have all been very positive - hopefully between now and the early part of the new year those discussions will remain positive and I am the manager going forward.

"I have also said I have been in the job four years, which is a long time, there were difficult days in the early campaign and times when I thought maybe it was not the right job for me, but obviously where we are now in terms of qualification, I think this squad will probably change over the next campaign.

"We have a very difficult World Cup group with Germany and the Czech Republic being in there but that is a massive challenge and one I would not be scared to take on."

O'Neill added: "A number of younger players are going to have to step up and come into the squad after the Euros, but for now the time is to let us enjoy where we are, let's look forward to the tournament and go there to give a great account of ourselves."

PA Media

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