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Lavery included in Northern Ireland Under-21s squad for back-to-back home Euro qualifiers

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Northern Ireland forward Shayne Lavery.

Northern Ireland forward Shayne Lavery.

Northern Ireland forward Shayne Lavery.

Linfield striker Shayne Lavery has been included in the Northern Ireland Under-21s squad for their upcoming European Championship qualifiers against Finland and Ukraine.

The Blues hitman has been included in the last few senior squads but, after not being included in Ian Baraclough's panel last week, will link up with the underage team instead this time around.

The 21-year-old played in last month's qualifier against Denmark but will be available for both fixtures on this occasion after being named in caretaker manager Andy Crosby's 23-man squad.

The panel will play two qualifiers against Finland and Ukraine, on Friday and Tuesday respectively, both of which will be played at the Ballymena Showgrounds behind closed doors.

Northern Ireland have struggled in qualifying to date so far, winning just one of their seven qualifiers, but have shown marked improvement in their last two games in beating Malta 2-0 and battling to a 1-0 defeat to high-flying Denmark.

There are three new names included by Crosby as Watford midfielder JJ McKiernan, QPR midfielder Amrit Bansal-McNulty - who is on loan with Serie C side Como - and Brighton forward Ben Wilson earn their first call-ups to the squad.

Barrow midfielder Bobby Burns caps off a good few days by earning a call-up to the squad after also securing a loan move to Glentoran on Saturday, while Livingston's Ciaron Brown is also included.

In total there are nine players included in the squad who are plying their trade in the Danske Bank Premiership, representing the growing strength of the local league.

Goalkeepers: Conor Hazard (Celtic), Nathan Gartside (Derry City) Defenders: Eoin Toal (Derry City), Caolan Marron (Glentoran), Ciaron Brown (Livingston), Kofi Balmer (Ballymena United), Jack Scott (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Daniel Amos (Doncaster Rovers), Ross Larkin (Linfield), Aaron Donnelly (Cliftonville), Nathan Kerr (Portadown) Midfielders: Alfie McCalmont (Leeds United - on loan at Oldham Athletic), Caolan Boyd-Munce (Birmingham City), JJ McKiernan (Watford), Jake Dunwoody (Derry City), Ethan Galbraith (Manchester United), Amrit Bansal-McNulty (QPR – on loan at Como in Italy), Bobby Burns (Barrow - on loan at Glentoran). Forwards: Shayne Lavery (Linfield), David Parkhouse (Sheffield United – on loan at Hartlepool United), Paul O’Neill (Glentoran), Lee Bonis (Portadown), Ben Wilson (Brighton & Hove Albion).

Belfast Telegraph