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Liam Boyce out, but Caolan Lavery in mix for Romania

By Stuart McKinley

Published 06/06/2015

Paddy McNair
Paddy McNair
Stuart Dallas

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill has sent three of his squad on their summer holidays a week earlier than expected.

O'Neill handed his players a long weekend off following Thursday's behind-closed-doors training match against the Republic of Ireland and after having a 28-man panel for that game, with Steven Davis, Chris Brunt, Gareth McAuley, Chris Baird and Kyle Lafferty joining up following last Sunday's friendly with Qatar, a squad of 25 will reassemble next week for Saturday's crunch Euro 2016 qualifier against Romania at Windsor Park.

MK Dons midfielder Ben Reeves and strikers Liam Boyce from Ross County and Wigan Athletic's Billy McKay are the three men to lose out.

Boyce did at least play part of the second half against Qatar, but Reeves didn't make it on to the pitch in that game and McKay wasn't involved at all, even on the bench.

Reeves has only won two caps, coming on as a substitute in the Euro 2016 qualifier away to Greece last October and starting in the March friendly against Scotland.

McKay has won 10 caps, but has yet to score a goal despite a creditable record in Scotland with Inverness Caley Thistle. He has only played nine games, however, since joining Wigan in January.

Boyce is, perhaps, the most surprising omission as he finished the season strongly at Ross County and scored a total of 10 goals in 30 appearances.

Sheffield Wednesday youngster Caolan Lavery is retained, increasing his prospects of winning his first full international cap.

O'Neill has also kept all three goalkeepers, Roy Carroll, Michael McGovern and Trevor Carson, on board, with the five players given last Sunday off after having club commitments the previous weekend - Davis, Brunt, McAuley, Baird and Lafferty - all likely to join Carroll in the starting line-up against the Romanians.

Shane Ferguson, who missed most of the latter part of the season with injury after joining Rangers on loan, stays in the squad and he could feature on the left at some stage, either at full-back or on the wing.

After impressing against Qatar, both Paddy McNair and Stuart Dallas, who scored in the 1-1 draw, will get a chance to press their claims to play next Saturday.

O'Neill will trim his squad further next week, with the match-day 23 having to be submitted to Fifa 24 hours in advance of kick-off.

Meanwhile Romania, who are already without Sunderland goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon for the trip to Belfast, are pulling out all the stops to ensure that captain Razvan Rat and midfield ace Lucian Sanmartean are fit to face O'Neill's men.

They have been sent from the team's training camp in Bucharest to Serbia to be treated by controversial healer Mariana Kovacevic.

Her injury treatment involves injections containing horse placenta.

Revised Northern Ireland squad: Carroll (Notts County); McGovern (Hamilton Academical); Carson (Cheltenham Town); Hughes (unattached); Baird (West Brom); McAuley (West Brom); J Evans (Man United); Cathcart (Watford); Ferguson (Newcastle); D Lafferty (Burnley); McLaughlin (Fleetwood); McCullough (Doncaster); McNair (Man United); Davis (Southampton); Brunt (West Brom); C Evans (Blackburn); Norwood (Reading); McCourt (Unattached); Dallas (Brentford); Lafferty (Norwich); McGinn (Aberdeen); Ward (Unattached); Magennis (Kilmarnock); Grigg (MK Dons); Lavery (Sheff Wed).

Belfast Telegraph

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