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Northern Ireland Under 21 duo get senior call as O'Neill forced to make late switch

 

By Graham Luney

Michael O'Neill has added Everton striker Shayne Lavery and midfielder Jordan Thompson to his Northern Ireland squad for the summer tour to Panama and Costa Rica.

The Northern Ireland manager has been forced to turn to reinforcements as Cameron McGeehan will miss the trip with an ankle injury and Oliver Norwood is involved in the Championship play-off final with Fulham at the weekend.

After scoring against Spain for Northern Ireland Under-21s, teenager Lavery was included in O'Neill's senior panel for the friendly against South Korea in March. He was an unused substitute as Northern Ireland won 2-1 thanks to a late goal from debutant Paul Smyth.

The former Glenavon youngster impressed for David Unsworth's Under-23 Everton side and was named in the Toffees' senior matchday squad for the Europa League clash at Cypriot side Apollon Limassol in December.

Thompson (21) spent the second half of this season on loan at Livingston from Rangers but announced he was leaving Ibrox on Monday.

On Sunday he helped Livingston to promotion to the Scottish Premiership, starting both legs of the play-off final against Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

Northern Ireland will travel to Central America on Saturday and play Panama in Panama City on Tuesday, May 29 before taking on Costa Rica on Sunday, June 3 in San Jose.

The new additions are not a surprise as O'Neill has stressed the importance of offering young players an opportunity to develop at senior international level.

Crusaders' Gavin Whyte and goalkeepers Conor Hazard and Bailey Peacock-Farrell are hoping to earn their first caps with the senior side.

Peacock-Farrell, who is from Darlington, is winning admirers at Leeds United and O'Neill believes the Northern Ireland Under-21 ace is an exciting prospect.

"Bailey is one we have put a lot of time into as we first met with him two or three years ago to discuss the option of playing for Northern Ireland," said O'Neill.

"At the time he was in a group of young goalkeepers the English FA were working with, and he came in and trained with us before the Azerbaijan game.

"This season he has taken the chance, when given to him over 10 or 12 games, at club level with Leeds United.

"He also showed up well with the Under-21s.

"There's no point in me bringing someone like Michael McGovern to the other side of the world at this time of the season for 45 minutes of football.

"The players not here know the rationale in putting this squad together.

"Bailey is pushing, if he stays in the Leeds team."

Northern Ireland squad

Goalkeepers: Carson (Motherwell), Hazard (Celtic - loan Falkirk), Peacock-Farrell (Leeds)

Defenders: Cathcart (Watford), J. Evans (West Brom), Hodson (Rangers), Hughes (Hearts), McAuley (West Brom), McCullough (Doncaster), McLaughlin (Millwall)

Midfielders: Dallas (Leeds), C. Evans (Blackburn), Ferguson (Millwall), McNair (Sunderland), Saville (Millwall), Whyte (Crusaders), Thompson (Unattached)

Forwards: Boyce (Burton), Magennis (Charlton), McCartan (Bradford), Smyth (QPR),  Lavery (Everton)

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