Belfast Telegraph

Matthew Kennedy named in Northern Ireland squad as Shayne Lavery and Ciaron Brown hold spots for Euro 2020 qualifier in the Netherlands

St Johnstone winger Matthew Kennedy (left) is a new face in the Northern Ireland squad, where he joins Michael Smith (right).
St Johnstone winger Matthew Kennedy (left) is a new face in the Northern Ireland squad, where he joins Michael Smith (right).
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

Scotland Under 21 international Matthew Kennedy has been included in the Northern Ireland squad for next week's Euro 2020 qualifier in the Netherlands.

Michael O'Neill's men will then take on the Czech Republic in a friendly, when it is more likely for the St Johnstone winger to earn a debut following his international switch to the country of his birth.

He trained with the Northern Ireland squad last month, although his international clearance wasn't through in time for the friendly win over Luxembourg.

Jamal Lewis has been included in what is a boost following the elbow injury he sustained in Norwich's defeat to Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Also in are on-fire Linfield forward Shayne Lavery, Motherwell midfielder Liam Donnelly and Cardiff defender Ciaron Brown, who made an unexpected start against Luxembourg despite only being called into the U21 squad for the first time days before.

Lavery is one of four strikers named, joining Kyle Lafferty, Josh Magennis and Liam Boyce.

Returning to the squad is Hearts full-back Michael Smith, who missed out on last month’s games against Luxembourg and Germany due to injury.

However, news isn't as good for Jordan Jones, who will also miss November's qualifying double-header against the Netherlands and Germany after undergoing during on a medial ligament injury.

Northern Ireland sit in second place in Group C, level on 12 points with leaders Germany after losing 2-0 to them in Belfast last month.

That was the first setback for O'Neill's men in the group after they won their first four fixtures, but they still face a very difficult path to qualification, realistically needing to pick up points against the Dutch home and away after Holland's victory over Germany last month.

"Germany losing to the Netherlands was probably not the result we wanted, it sways the head-to-head in favour of the Netherlands in terms of our two games against them," O'Neill said.

"We have to find a way to get four points, whether that's a draw away from home to set up a massive game for ourselves in Belfast or try to win the game in Rotterdam.

"Those are the challenges we face."

Northern Ireland squad to play the Netherlands and Czech Republic

Goalkeepers: Michael McGovern, Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Trevor Carson

Defenders: Jonny Evans, Craig Cathcart, Conor Mclaughlin, Jamal Lewis, Michael Smith, Tom Flanagan, Ciaron Brown

Midfielders: Steven Davis, Niall McGinn, Corry Evans, Stuart Dallas, Shane Ferguson, Paddy McNair, George Saville, Gavin Whyte, Jordan Thompson, Liam Donnelly, Matthew Kennedy

Forwards: Kyle Lafferty, Liam Boyce, Josh Magennis, Shayne Lavery

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