Belfast Telegraph

David Healy set for Northern Ireland recall

By Stuart McKinley

David Healy may yet face Morocco next Wednesday night — despite being dropped from the Northern Ireland squad for the first time in his career.

With manager Nigel Worthington seeing two more members of his squad pull out of the Windsor Park friendly last night his options in every department are now seriously reduced.

And Warren Feeney’s withdrawal means that Healy is now in-line to receive an emergency call with only Kyle Lafferty and Rory Patterson left to fulfil striking roles.

Of the other strikers that could be called in Martin Paterson of Burnley is doubtful for his club’s game this weekend, so even if called upon he too may be forced to miss out.

Gareth McAuley also added his name to the list of those who won’t be involved and while Worthington will insist that there is a positive side in that opportunities will now present themselves to other players, there is no doubt that the team he sends out will be very much understrength.

Six players have reported injuries and a seventh, Grant McCann, has been excused with Peterborough’s FA Cup replay taking priority — with Worthington’s permission.

The absences of Maik Taylor, Chris Baird, Corry Evans and Sammy Clingan mean that only a handful of the team that started the last home game against Italy just over a month ago remain — and that’s before a full weekend of action when there is potential for more players to be ruled out.

Right from when the squad was named on Monday there has been more interest created by who isn’t in the squad rather than those who will be playing against Morocco.

First it was Healy, but now he has been joined by quite a few of his regular team-mates, leaving Worthington with just 13 players at the minute, with no replacements as yet confirmed — although it is understood that Michael O’Connor will be drafted in to beef up the midfield.

It’s not quite as bad as the situation in which former manager Sammy McIlroy found himself in ahead of a game against Spain in April 2002 when he had a full starting 11 — plus a couple more — missing from the squad.

There is a link though. Those pull outs led to a first cap for Pat McCourt and with players pulling out by the half dozen this time the Celtic man — who has added just two more international appearances in eight years — may finally get the lengthy run in a Northern Ireland shirt that there have been loud calls for after impressive club displays.

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