Wednesday 22 November 2017

Injury forces Craig Cathcart out of Northern Ireland's game in Czech Republic

Craig Cathcart's absence could see Northern Ireland change their formation
Craig Cathcart's absence could see Northern Ireland change their formation

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill has been dealt a blow ahead of next weekend's World Cup qualifier in the Czech Republic with the news that defender Craig Cathcart will miss the game through injury.

The 27-year-old missed Watford's loss to Arsenal on Saturday due to a groin strain and that problem will now keep him out of his country's clash in Prague next Sunday.

As a result of Cathcart's absence, O'Neill has called up Shrewsbury's Ryan McGivern and the uncapped Rochdale midfielder Matthew Lund into a group that will spend the week at a training camp in Austria before going on to the Czech Republic.

It gives O'Neill plenty to ponder for the first match of the 2018 World Cup qualification process as Cathcart played every minute of this summer's Euros in France as part of a three centre-back system which may now have to be rejigged.

Veteran Aaron Hughes is unavailable having yet to undergo a pre-season with new Indian Super League club Kerala Blasters so 23-cap defender McGivern is welcomed back into the group nearly two years on from his most recent appearance.

Paddy McNair could also slot in at centre-back, where the uncapped Tom Flanagan can also be utilised, or O'Neill may consider reverting to a flat back four.

Lund has been included in a senior squad for only the second time having been part of the group that O'Neill took to Romania in November 2014.

Press Association

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