Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Liam Boyce and James Gray get Northern Ireland call

Call up: Liam Boyce is heading to South America

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill has bolstered his attacking options for the friendly clashes against Uruguay and Chile by adding Liam Boyce and James Gray to his travelling party.

Cliftonville's Liam Boyce, who is out of contract this summer and considering his next move at club level, has been presented with the opportunity to win his fifth cap after a three-year absence.

The 23-year-old was capped under previous boss Nigel Worthington at a time when he was contracted to German side Werder Bremen, but now becomes the only Irish League player in O'Neill's squad.

Accrington's James Gray, another striker who featured in the Under-21 side, wins a first call-up to the senior set-up for the South American tour.

Gray is the son of former Northern Ireland international Phil Gray. O'Neill's men will tackle Uruguay on May 30 and Chile on June 4 but the former Shamrock Rovers chief has had to endure a flurry of withdrawals, including forwards Martin Paterson and Jamie Ward earlier this week.

Will Grigg and Kyle Lafferty are also unavailable.

Irish League fans will welcome Boyce's return to the international stage though some are still questioning how O'Neill can overlook his strike partner of last season, Joe Gormley, who scored a record 37 goals for Cliftonville.

Portadown striker Darren Murray tweeted yesterday: 'Can any 1 tell me how Michael O'Neill looked by Joe Gormley?? For these friendlies?? Seriously like!!'

But 24-year-old Gormley himself tweeted: 'Buzzing for Liam Boyce getting a call up, Best player in the country, deserves it #goodluck.'

Northern Ireland squad: Goalkeepers: Roy Carroll (Olympiakos), Michael McGovern (Falkirk), Trevor Carson (Portsmouth); Defenders: Daniel Lafferty (Burnley), Ryan McLaughlin (Liverpool), Aaron Hughes (QPR), Luke McCullough (Doncaster), Liam Donnelly (Fulham), Chris Baird (Burnley); Midfielders: Steven Davis (Southampton), Oliver Norwood (Huddersfield Town), Shane Ferguson (Newcastle Utd), Corry Evans (Blackburn Rovers), Sammy Clingan (Kilmarnock), Jonny Steele (New York Red Bulls), Paul Paton (Dundee Utd), Conor McLaughlin (Fleetwood Town); Forwards: Niall McGinn (Aberdeen), Billy McKay (Inverness CT), Dean Shiels (Rangers), Josh Magennis (Aberdeen), Liam Boyce (Cliftonville), James Gray (Accrington Stanley).

* MK Dons have extended the contracts of Northern Ireland duo Ben Reeves and Lee Hodson by another year.

The pair were set to be out of contract but will now stay at Stadium:mk until at least the summer of 2015.

* Coleraine have announced that John Watt has agreed a new two-year contract with the Bannsiders.

Watt, who is now in his 10th season at The Showgrounds, has also been rewarded for his long service with a testimonial.

Meanwhile, Ballinamallard United have signed striker Anthony Elding from Sligo Rovers.

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