Northern Ireland has named the squad that would be paraded when they take on Czech Republic in the World Cup qualifier.
Coach Martin O’Neill named players he deemed fit to ensure they get past Czech Republic. O’Neill left out Wigan Athletic striker Will Grigg despite hitting four goals this campaign already. O’Neill chose Liam Boyce as his replacement, citing “personal reasons” as the rationale at a press conference. He opened up that the player would be missing as his partner was expecting a baby, and he didn’t want to miss it.
“He [Liam] was very unlucky to miss out of France. It was a toss of a coin between him and Will Grigg. He got a bad wrist injury and played poorly in the League Cup final even though County won the final, so his season fizzled out a bit after a strong first half, whereas Will Grigg finished strongly,” O’Neill explained.
O’Neill left out Linfield goal tender Roy Carroll, but named Tom Flanagan who has featured just once for Northern Ireland at Under 21 level. Flanagan was born in Hammersmith and he started his career at ML Dons. He was released in 2015 from his contract, but the central defender joined Burton Albion. Burton are playing in the English Championship for the first time, and Flanagan has been a regular.
Michael Duffy was invited as well after coming through the youth ranks. He has featured for the Under 21 side, and is playing at Glasgow Celtic after moving from his home-town side Derry City. Michael McGovern, Trevor Carson and Alan McMannus are the options in goal.
Aside Flanagan, Gareth McAuley, Jonny Evans, Craig Cathcart, Lee Hodgson, Jamie Ward, and Michael Smith are the chosen defenders. Steven Davis, Niall McGinn, Corry Evans, Shane Ferguson, Stuart Dallas, Paddy McNair, Oliver Norwood and Duffy would play in the middle. Boyce could start alongside Conor Washington, Kyle Lafferty, and Josh Magennis.