Ian Baraclough has named his Northern Ireland squad for the upcoming friendlies against Malta and Ukraine with Steven Davis and Jonny Evans being the two most noteworthy absences in the travelling squad.
After what proved to be a rather successful season for the majority of players at club level, the title-winning campaign for Davis at Rangers and the late injury worries for Evans after his FA Cup win with Leicester City have earned the experienced duo a well-earned rest this summer.
The squad is a real mix between youth and experience. In the goalkeeping department, Burnley’s Bailey Peacock-Farrell retains his place along with Liverpool’s Liam Hughes. Celtic’s Conor Hazard also retains his place for the summer tour.
In defence Craig Cathcart, Stuart Dallas, Shane Ferguson and Paddy McNair are joined by Daniel Ballard and Ciaron Brown. Liverpool youngster Conor Bradley and Chelsea’s Sam McClelland have won their first call-ups to the full International squad.
George Saville and Jordan Thompson will bring experience to the midfield while in-form St Johnstone player Ali McCann retains his place in the squad. Ethan Galbraith and Alife McCalmont get well-deserved call-ups after their impressive form and progress over the past year.
Niall McGinn and Gavin Whyte are joined by the returning Jordan Jones, while Paul Smyth returns to the squad for the first time since 2019.
Kyle Lafferty and Josh Magennis keep their places in the squad and are joined by Liam Boyce, who returns for the first time since the end of the last UEFA Nations League campaign.
Dion Charles also keeps his spot and Shane Lavery is also named after a very impressive season for Linfield which saw him be named Ulster Player of the Year and for the first time in the competition’s history, also being named the Ulster Young Player of the Year.
While the squad is definitely much weaker than usual, the friendly matches will give the “fringe” players a chance to earn themselves a place in the starting XI for the qualifying matches for the 2021 FIFA World Cup.
Joining Davis and Evans on the list of notable absentees is Corry Evans, Michael McGovern, Trevor Carson, Conor McLaughlin, Jamal Lewis and Michael Smith.
The first match of their summer tour will be played in Austria at the Wörthersee Stadium in Klagenfurt. They will face Malta after the friendly against Turkey was cancelled. This game has also been moved forward to Sunday 30th May with kick-off at 5 pm UK Time.
The second game will be against Ukraine with this fixture getting fans excited for two reasons. The first being a chance for the men’s team to add even more insult to injury to Ukraine after the Northern Ireland women’s team defied the odds to beat Ukraine and qualify for the finals of Euro 2023.
The game will also be the first time that Northern Ireland will face Ukraine since that memorable ‘Kings of Lyon’ game at Euro 2016. This fixture will take place at the Dnipro Arena, with a 7 pm kick-off (UK Time).