Belfast Telegraph

The six Northern Ireland players one yellow away from a suspension and why they 'can't think about it'

 

By Graham Luney

Gareth McAuley believes Northern Ireland's players shouldn't be gripped by the fear of suspensions as a possible World Cup play-off looms.

Six Northern Ireland players are one caution away from a suspension - skipper Steven Davis, Jonny Evans, Corry Evans, Stuart Dallas, Oliver Norwood and Josh Magennis.

The players are now walking a disciplinary tightrope in tonight's clash with Germany and could miss the final qualifier in Norway on Sunday or, worse, sit out a play-off clash with a cherished place in the World Cup finals on the line.

Boss Michael O'Neill doesn't have the luxury of resting players as a hammering to Germany would damage morale and the team's world ranking, leaving them unseeded for the play-offs.

West Brom ace McAuley, now back in the squad after shaking off a thigh injury, says it's not a concern that should occupy minds for long.

"You can't think about it," said the Larne man. "Put it this way - if you get booked in the first half, what do you do in the second? Do you take a red and then be free to play in the play-offs?

"It's a tightrope. For me there should be a line drawn under it, especially because everyone wants fair play in football and you would want to be at full strength in the play-off games.

"Two bookings over 12 games it is technically, that's a lot of football and a lot of minutes to be on a knife-edge. You've just got to try and get the points you need and deal with it after that."

McAuley also heaped praise on Charlton striker Josh Magennis who netted a brace in the 3-0 victory in San Marino.

"I'm delighted for him," he added. "Josh is a fun guy and he's the life and soul.

"He's playing in League One, scoring goals and doing the same at international level.

"People will start to notice and believe in him like Michael has done. He loves playing for Northern Ireland as well, you've all seen that when he cried when he scored against Greece!"

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