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Worthington turns to Crusaders stars for Dublin contests

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Nigel Worthington

Nigel Worthington

Nigel Worthington

There will be a strong Irish League flavour to Nigel Worthington’s panel for the Carling Nations Cup games against Republic of Ireland and Wales next week.

David Healy will not be the only big-name absentee from the squad as Worthington has admitted that his senior men “need a break” after another long, hard season.

Crusaders’ outstanding season is to be reflected by the inclusion of three players — Colin Coates, Jordan Owens and Stuart Dallas.

The trio will be joined in the senior squad by Linfield goalkeeper Alan Blayney and midfielder Robert Garrett.

Dallas’ emergence onto the international stage is a fitting reward for his astonishing first season in the Carling Premiership, culminating in him winning the Carling Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year Awards.

Striker Owens has donned a Northern Ireland jersey at under-19, under-21 and under-23 level as well as playing for his country at the Milk Cup.

Crues skipper Coates has four caps under his belt and came off the bench in the 1-1 draw at home to Morocco last November.

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Unfortunately the Carling Cup matches have been overshadowed by the ticket fiasco with fans and the Irish FA not seeing eye to eye.

The end result is that a derby fixture that promised much in terms of atmosphere and intense rivalry risks being a damp squib.

The Amalgamation of Northern Ireland Supporters’ Clubs are urging members to boycott the two fixtures, disappointed with the IFA’s new ticketing procedures in the light of a minority of supporters embarrassing themselves at the Scotland clash.

The news will disappoint Worthington but he hasn’t the power to tell supporters what to do — he does determine who is in and who is out of the squad and his selection will no doubt raise eyebrows.

Nottingham Forest goalkeeper Lee Camp and Peterborough’s Grant McCann are involved in the Football League play-offs while Aaron Hughes, Maik Taylor, Kyle Lafferty, Chris Brunt, Stephen Craigan and Pat McCourt are not expected to feature.

Ipswich teenager Josh Carson will be drafted into the senior panel after progressing through the under age ranks. Josh McQuoid, Gareth McAuley and Martin Paterson should also feature.

l The Republic of Ireland have agreed to take on Italy in a friendly in Liege, Belgium on June 7.


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