Belfast Telegraph

O'Neill is right to be angry, says Boyce

By Graham Luney

Fifa vice-president Jim Boyce says he shares Michael O'Neill's frustration regarding players who have pulled out of the South American tour – but he remains baffled at the Northern Ireland manager's decision to overlook Cliftonville hotshot Joe Gormley.

Cliftonville's record goalscorer failed to make the travelling party for the games against Uruguay and Chile even though O'Neill suffered an avalanche of withdrawals.

Gormley's strike partner Liam Boyce was called into the squad for this morning's battle in Montevideo and Wednesday's date with Chile in Valparaiso.

But O'Neill has expressed his dismay at the number of players who have withdrawn their services and Cliftonville honorary patron Boyce agrees.

"The manager picked an original squad of 22 and something like 14 or 15 of those players, for whatever reason, are not going," said Boyce. "Anyone would share the manager's frustration.

"I have always felt the greatest honour for any player is to put on that international shirt.

"If players are injured I can accept that but there was criticism of a tour to the Caribbean in 2004 which I felt was wrong.

"Ninety per cent of the Northern Ireland senior players went on that tour because before a contract was signed the Irish FA and manager got a guarantee from players that they would go. It is unfair to people in Uruguay and Chile that they are seeing so few regular players.

"I really feel for Michael O'Neill when I hear some of the excuses but there should be a guarantee given of senior players' attendance.

"The absence of Joe Gormley baffles me though.

"He's a prolific goalscorer in the Irish League and I thought he deserved a chance in this squad and for the game against Cyprus in March."

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