Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

O'Neill picks uncapped teenager

Michael O'Neill is planning to start giving younger players a chance

Northern Ireland coach Michael O'Neill hopes to reduce the age profile of his squad after selecting uncapped teenager Ryan McLaughlin against Finland.

McLaughlin, 17, has been named in the 23-strong squad for the friendly international at Windsor Park on August 15. O'Neill insists the inclusion of the Liverpool reserves full-back signifies the start of a shift towards introducing youth into the ranks.

"Ryan's a young player and we want to try and introduce more young players," O'Neill said.

"This is as much for Ryan's experience as anything else and we don't want to put any expectations on him that are unrealistic.

"He played for the Under-21s last season and did very well. It's a chance to bring him in and let him see what full internationals are about.

"It will be good for him to meet the players as well because some of the younger players will have a significant role to play in the next campaign."

Northern Ireland will play their final friendly before qualification for the 2014 World Cup begins without all-time leading scorer David Healy, who is without a club.

O'Neill has lost both games since taking charge, shipping nine goals in defeats by Norway and Holland without finding the back of the net.

"This is a difficult game because there are club fixtures right until the Tuesday night," O'Neill said. "There's a bit of co-operation required between the clubs and ourselves in terms of getting the squad together. Ideally we'd like the players for a little bit longer, but we'll have them from the Sunday evening."

Northern Ireland launch their campaign to reach the next World Cup in Brazil when they play Russia in Moscow on September 7.