Belfast Telegraph

Two Northern Ireland players drop out but injury worry Liam Boyce joins panel for double-header

Northern Ireland striker Liam Boyce
Northern Ireland striker Liam Boyce

Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill has lost two members of his squad ahead of the upcoming international games against Luxembourg and Germany.

Rangers winger Jordan Jones and Hearts defender Michael Smith have both withdrawn, but striker Liam Boyce has linked up with the squad despite coming off during Burton's win over Bristol Rovers on Saturday with a hamstring issue.

Jones, of course, left Ibrox on crutches after being sent off in the closing stages of Sunday's Old Firm defeat to Celtic.

“People will have seen the incident at the weekend so Jordan won't be with us," said O'Neill.

Smith is struggling with a hamstring injury and didn't feature in Hearts' 2-2 draw with Hamilton last weekend.

“Michael Smith is not with us,” added the boss. “Unfortunately Michael’s hamstring injury means that he won’t be able to be fit for either game which is a blow.”

Boyce was withdrawn after 76 minutes in Burton's 2-0 home win on Saturday, with club boss Nigel Clough suggesting his star striker has no chance of appearing for Northern Ireland, facing 'a few weeks' on the sidelines.

However, O'Neill is more hopeful the former Cliftonville ace could feature for Northern Ireland, keen to monitor his progress during the week.

Forward Paul Smyth has already withdrawn from the squad, replaced by Linfield forward Shayne Lavery.

"Shayne's good," said O'Neill. "He's been in before so we know all about Shayne. He looks fit, hungry and enthusiastic. It's good to have him back in."

Northern Ireland face Luxembourg in a friendly at Windsor Park on Thursday before Germany visit for a tasty Group C clash on Monday.

As none of the goalkeepers in the squad; Trevor Carson, Bailey Peacock-Farrell and Michael McGovern have played a minute of senior football yet this season and O'Neill is hoping the opening friendly could be just what's required ahead of that daunting qualifier that awaits.

"It gives an opportunity for players who have possibly been on the fringes or who haven't played a lot of club football," he said. "It gives them 45 minutes or 60 minutes if necessary. We have a situation where none of the goalkeepers have been playing so it gives them minutes."

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