Belfast Telegraph

Paul Smyth and Jamal Lewis are set for summer senior Northern Ireland debuts, confirms O'Neill

By Liam Blackburn

Paul Smyth and Jamal Lewis are on Michael O'Neill's radar for senior Northern Ireland call-ups, but the pair may remain with the Under-21s for the next international break in March.

Former Linfield forward Smyth netted the winner on his debut for Championship club QPR on New Year's Day while teenage left-back Lewis has started each of Norwich's previous five games and scored in an FA Cup replay against Chelsea last week.

O'Neill, who was at Stamford Bridge to witness that Lewis goal, has been encouraged by the development of both but is mindful of depriving Under-21 boss Ian Baraclough of two key players in March.

Northern Ireland Under-21s are second in their qualifying group for the 2019 Euros and Smyth and Lewis could both be involved against Spain and Iceland before O'Neill brings them along to Panama and Costa Rica with the senior team.

"Both are in the Under-21s and doing well," O'Neill said.

"The 21s have two big games in March as well against Spain and Iceland, and they're second in the group so we'll evaluate that and whether we'll leave them with the Under-21s. Certainly we'll be looking at the end-of-season tour and them being along.

"Jamal played well very against Chelsea and I was at the game. Paul we know as we took him to France. It was great to see him take that chance so quickly.

"We want more of our young players to come through our domestic league and more in our 21s to come through."

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis believes his side got "a decent draw" in the inaugural Uefa Nations League.

Davis said: "We are playing teams in and around us in terms of world rankings so I expect the games to be close and competitive.

"Marko Arnautovic is a key player for Austria. He is top quality and is one of the names we are familiar with."

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