Thursday 5 December 2019

McNair's rise rewarded with Northern Ireland call-up

Paddy McNair
Paddy McNair

Jamie Holland

Paddy McNair's rise from obscurity continued yesterday when he was called up to the Northern Ireland squad for the first time.

The 19-year-old defender who played only his third game for Manchester United last Sunday, coming on as a substitute, has been drafted in as cover for Aaron Hughes for the Euro 2016 qualifier in Romania on November 14.

Hughes picked up an ankle knock last weekend and is due to have a scan to determine its severity.

Despite McNair's lack of experience - he has previously only made two appearances for Northern Ireland U-21s - manager Michael O'Neill hailed the player's rise to prominence this season and said his performance in the Manchester derby underlined his ability to cope at the highest level.

"Paddy basically came from obscurity to United's first team and he has coped brilliantly," he said.

"We have known about Paddy for a long time. In many ways he has been fast-tracked but he has shown he has the qualities to perform at that level.

"I would have no issues with putting him in the side if we needed to because he was able to cope coming into the Manchester derby on Sunday with no problems."

An excellent opening win in Hungary was followed by back-to-back successes against the Faroe Islands and Greece last month.

But he warned his side should only be judged on their ability to maintain their form for the duration of the campaign and book a place at their first major finals since the 1986 World Cup.

O'Neill can see no reason why his side should not go from strength to strength after three wins from their first three qualifying games lifted them to the top of Group F.

An excellent opening victory in Hungary was followed by back-to-back successes against the Faroe Islands and Greece last month.

"We feel we can go to Romania and get a result in exactly the way we did in Hungary and Greece.," said O'Neill.

"Nine points from the first three games is more than we could have expected, especially with two away games, so anything in Romania is a bonus.

"We wanted to be in a position to compete and regardless of what we do in Romania, we will be in a position to compete."

O'Neill warned, however, that his side should be judged only on their ability to maintain their form for the duration of the campaign.

"Winning three games out of three is an achievement of sorts -but it is only a real achievement if we get something at the end of it," he said. (© Independent News Service)

Northern Ireland squad

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

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