Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland withdrawals open door for Little

By Stuart McKinley

Stuart Dallas has been forced to withdraw from the Northern Ireland squad – just 24 hours after he received a call-up from international boss Michael O'Neill.

And he has been joined on the injury list by Liverpool youngster Ryan McLaughlin.

The double blow for O'Neill has, however, handed a fresh opportunity to Preston North End striker Andy Little.

Brentford winger Dallas was drafted in by O'Neill on Monday as a reward for his impressive start to the Championship season, in which he has scored three times in seven appearances for the Bees.

Yesterday, however, the 23-year-old pulled out of Sunday's opening Euro 2016 qualifier against Hungary in Budapest, with the Irish FA announcing he has a leg injury.

Dallas' withdrawal will come as a huge disappointment as he had captured the imagination after stepping up from League One to Championship football this season.

He was hoping to win a second cap, after making his debut in the Carling Nations Cup against Wales back in May 2011, while still a Crusaders player.

McLaughlin had impressed during the end-of-season matches on the trip to South America in May and June, when he won his first two caps against Uruguay and Chile.

It is possible that O'Neill was considering McLaughlin for a wing-back role in his preferred 3-5-2 formation, but the 19-year-old will now have to wait a little longer before winning his first competitive cap.

McLaughlin said on his Twitter feed: "Gutted I had to pull out of the squad. Injuries always come at the worst time, hope to be back in a couple of weeks. #NoLuck".

For Enniskillen-born Little it is a chance to relaunch his international career.

He was due to play for Preston against Shrewsbury in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy last night, but instead was onboard a flight to London to join up with the Northern Ireland squad.

Little, who moved to Preston from Rangers during the summer, has won just eight caps since making his debut as a substitute against Poland four-and-a-half years ago.

He has been blighted by a series of injuries during that time, including hip problems that required surgery and a broken cheekbone.

Belfast Telegraph


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