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Michael O'Neill names Northern Ireland squad for qualifiers

Updated: Thursday, 03 Oct 2013 15:17 | Comments

Kyle Lafferty misses out through suspension
Kyle Lafferty misses out through suspension

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill has named a familiar squad for his side's final World Cup qualifiers against Azerbaijan and Israel.

O'Neill was livid with his side for their limp display in a 3-2 defeat at lowly Luxembourg last month but has such limited resources that wholesale changes were virtually impossible.

Fit-again Kilmarnock midfielder Sammy Clingan and Bradford defender Rory McArdle have been recalled, while West Brom midfielder Chris Brunt is back from suspension.

Kyle Lafferty, banned after his red card against Portugal, will not be travelling for the matches, which take place in Baku on October 11 and Tel Aviv four days later, while former captain Aaron Hughes is ruled out with a groin problem.

He has not played for Fulham since August 31 and there is a chance he may have played his last international match.

Hughes was tempted out of retirement when O'Neill took the job at the start of 2012 and has given no guarantees he will take on another campaign.

Hughes' absence means Brunt, Jonny Evans, Gareth McAuley and captain Steven Davis are the only Premier League regulars available to O'Neill.

Elsewhere Chris Baird is included, having finally found a new club.

He joined up with the squad as cover last month despite being unattached but is now playing at Reading and ready to take a full part.

Winger Paddy McCourt, who was also left out of recent squads due to being unattached, is a notable omission having impressed at Barnsley since signing on a free transfer.

Northern Ireland squad to face Azerbaijan and Israel: Carroll (Olympiacos), Mannus (St Johnstone), McGovern (Falkirk), McAuley (West Brom), J Evans (Man Utd), Bruce (Hull), Hodson (MK Dons), D Lafferty (Burnley) Cathcart (Blackpool), McArdle (Bradford), Baird (Reading), Davis (Southampton), Norwood (Huddersfield), McGinn (Aberdeen), Ferguson (Birmingham, on loan from Newcastle), C Evans (Blackburn), Brunt (West Brom), Clingan (Kilmarnock), Grigg (Brentford), McKay (Inverness), Paterson (Huddersfield), Ward (Derby), Magennis (Aberdeen).

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