Belfast Telegraph

Chris Brunt back in Northern Ireland squad

By Rory Dollard

Chris Brunt has returned from suspension to take his place in a 22-man Northern Ireland squad for next month's World Cup qualifiers against Portugal and Luxembourg.

The West Brom midfielder missed the side's 1-0 win over Russia at Windsor Park - manager Michael O'Neill's first victory in the job - after picking up two yellow cards in the campaign.

All of the players who featured in that match return for the double header, with Portugal coming to Belfast on September 6 and Northern Ireland away to Luxembourg four days later.

Manchester United's Jonny Evans, who was a late withdrawal on the evening of the Russia match due to illness, is in the squad along with Kyle Lafferty, who was ruled out of that game with an Achilles problem.

The Palermo striker, so long a first-choice pick for his country, may find it hard to dislodge either Martin Paterson, the goalscorer against Fabio Capello's Russia, or Jamie Ward after both men impressed in a new-look forward partnership.

Chris Baird misses out once again having yet to sign for a club since his release by Fulham, while Paddy McCourt is also absent having yet to play since joining Barnsley.

Grant McCann, the Peterborough midfielder, has taken a voluntary break from international football to concentrate on his coaching commitments at Posh.

NI squad named for World Cup qualifiers against Portugal & Luxembourg: Carroll, McGovern, Hughes, McGivern, Cathcart, McAuley, J Evans, Bruce, Hodson, D Lafferty (suspended for Portugal match), Davis, Norwood, McGinn, Ferguson, C Evans, Brunt, O’Connor, K Lafferty, Grigg, McKay, Paterson, Ward

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