Belfast Telegraph

Craig Cathcart an option for Northern Ireland's Euro 2010 plans

By Graham Luney

Nigel Worthington was banking on a clean bill of health last night ahead of Friday’s opening Euro 2012 qualifier in Slovenia.

There were no early withdrawals from his 20-man squad for the Group C showdown at the Ljudski VRT Stadium in Maribor (7.45pm).

Craig Cathcart, who has left Manchester United for Blackpool, has been recalled to the squad and the 21-year-old could win his first cap.

“I was delighted that Craig got his move to the Premiership side and the important thing for him is to get games without picking up injuries,” said Worthington, who has decided against re-calling Celtic’s Paddy McCourt.

“That’s important for him as an individual and for me as well.

“Only Sir Alex Ferguson can assess how he has developed but he has come through a great system and he’s now moved on from that club to find his feet out of the Manchester United structure and it’s certainly different.

“If Craig is playing first-team football he can develop but we are quite strong in the centre-half area, with four or five players there ahead of Craig.

“But someone can always lose form or pick up injuries and if Craig came in and did well he would keep his place.”

Meanwhile, left-back Ryan McGivern, who lost his place in the squad after the 2-0 defeat in Montenegro, feels the supporters will have something to cheer about on Friday night.

The Walsall new boy believes the players will be fresher and more dangerous in Slovenia.

“We have played Slovenia twice before and the players should be fitter and stronger with a few more games under their belts,” said the left-back.

“The Montenegro game was one which the players needed to get out of their system to see how much improvement was needed. I expect a much better performance and result against Slovenia.”

Northern Ireland haven’t scored in seven games, sparking fears of a return to the goal drought under Sammy McIlroy’s reign but McGivern believes the strikers will find their shooting boots.

“We have great strikers in the team and Grant (McCann) showed from the free-kick late on against Montenegro that we can be a threat from set-pieces,” he said.

“At the minute nothing is falling for us but hopefully that will change.

“Maik Taylor didn’t have a lot to do in the Montenegro game and their second goal was harsh on us. I thought it was our ball but the referee’s assistant gave the throw in to them and we were punished. Hopefully, luck will be on the boys’ side in Maribor.”

Northern Ireland will be hoping for a better result than the 2-0 defeat in a World Cup qualifier in Maribor back in October, 2008.

Northern Ireland squad (v Slovenia): Maik Taylor (Birmingham), Jonathan Tuffey (Inverness), Alan Blayney (Linfield), Jonny Evans (Man Utd), Stephen Craigan (Motherwell), Craig Cathcart (Blackpool), Gareth McAuley (Ipswich), Aaron Hughes (Fulham), Chris Baird (Fulham), Grant McCann (Peterborough), Chris Brunt (West Brom), Jonny Gorman (Wolves), Corry Evans (Man Utd), Steven Davis (Rangers), Sammy Clingan (Coventry), David Healy (Sunderland), Warren Feeney (Oldham), Kyle Lafferty (Rangers), Martin Paterson (Burnley), Rory Patterson (Plymouth).

Belfast Telegraph


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