A host of changes have been made to the Northern Ireland squad as Michael O’Neill prepares for his first full season in charge of the national team. A number of senior players have returned to the team after missing the 6-0 defeat to the Netherlands in June.
No fewer than 11 footballers that didn’t travel to Amsterdam for the humiliating defeat to the 2010 World Cup finalists have been included for the Windsor Park friendly against Finland. Jonny Evans is the only definite starter missing from the squad.
The Manchester United defender had ankle surgery during the summer but has revealed he expects to be available for his club’s first Premier League game of the season.
Liverpool’s highly-rated Ryan McLaughlin is the only uncapped player in the squad. The 17 year-old full-back played for the reserves last season but recently made his senior team debut during the club’s tour of Boston. New Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has probably had a little bit of sway in the call-up.
A personal recommendation from the former Swansea City boss saw Rory Donnelly called-up for June’s friendly despite not featuring for the Welsh side, and another glowing reference may have been enough to convince O’Neill.
David Healy and Sammy Clingan miss out of the squad. Both are without clubs and will need as much time during August to agree deals with prospective new teams.
Rangers duo Andrew Little and Dean Shiels have been included, immediately silencing suggestions Rangers players will be ignored until playing at a higher level. Whereas Scotland manager Craig Levein has seen fit to ignore the Ibrox club with his recent Scotland squad, O’Neill remains happy to include them.
Little is the only recognised striker who retains his place in the squad from the Netherlands friendly.
The friendly against Finland takes place at Windsor Park on Wednesday 15th August 2012 at 7:45pm.
The squad is as follows:
Goalkeepers: Lee Camp (Nottingham Forest), Roy Carroll (Olympiakos), Alan Mannus (St. Johnstone)
Defenders: Chris Baird (Fulham), Craig Cathcart (Blackpool), Lee Hodson (Watford), Aaron Hughes (Fulham), Daniel Lafferty (Burnley), Gareth McAuley (West Bromwich Albion), Ryan McGivern (Manchester City), Ryan McLaughlin (Liverpool), James McPake (Coventry City)
Midfielders: Chris Brunt (West Bromwich Albion), Steven Davis (Southampton), Corry Evans (Hull City), Shane Ferguson (Newcastle United), Paddy McCourt (Celtic), Oliver Norwood (Huddersfield Town), Dean Shiels (Rangers)
Strikers: Kyle Lafferty (FC Sion), Andrew Little (Rangers), Martin Paterson (Burnley), Jamie Ward (Derby County)