Belfast Telegraph

McAuley is ruled out of crunch double-header

 

By Eoin Wilson

West Brom have revealed that Gareth McAuley will miss Northern Ireland's World Cup qualification double-header in September.

The 37-year-old has not featured in pre-season with a thigh injury he was struggling with at the end of last term, one which forced him off just 25 minutes into his country's win over Azerbaijan in Baku two months ago.

It was hoped he would be fit enough to make the start of the Premier League season but Baggies boss Tony Pulis has confirmed that he remains out.

And a report on Albion's website also claims the player "will not be available" for Northern Ireland's fixtures with San Marino and Czech Republic at the start of September.

"Gareth won't be fit for a couple of weeks," Pulis said yesterday. "He's still struggling with his thigh so that's a problem for us."

Up until his withdrawal in Baku, McAuley had played every minute of his nation's World Cup qualification campaign.

Michael O'Neill's men can secure second place in their group, and a likely play-off berth, if results go their way during September's international break.

However, McAuley won't be the only significant absentee when O'Neill names his squad later this month. Burton's Liam Boyce recently ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament, while Jamie Ward (calf) and Paddy McNair (knee) are unlikely to return in time.

• Republic of Ireland midfielder Eunan O'Kane has penned a fresh four-year deal with Leeds.

The 27-year-old made the move to Elland Road from Bournemouth last summer and has established himself as a firm favourite.

O'Kane made his international debut off the bench in a pre-Euro 2016 friendly against Switzerland 16 months ago but failed to make Martin O'Neill's squad for the tournament in France.

"I'm delighted," the Londonderry man said. "I've loved every minute that I've been here. It's a really impressive club. It's moving in the right direction and I'm happy that I'm going to be part of it. There's been a lot of change for the better. Who knows where we'll end up?"

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