Kyle Lafferty is the notable exemption in the latest Northern Ireland squad as Ian Baraclough leaves him out due to the form of other players in the squad. Conor Bradley also makes the headlines by keeping his place in the squad after impressing in the last camp and during pre-season for Liverpool.
When Baraclough took over as Northern Ireland manager, he had to not only help transition the team into the post-Michael O’Neill era but also help the squad evolve into one that has the perfect balance of youth and experience. His latest squad shows this balance starting to come into fruition.
In the goalkeeping department, Bailey Peacock-Farrell keeps his place in the squad along with Conor Hazard. Peacock-Farrell is in the best form of his career after making a loan switch to Sheffield Wednesday this summer. He produced an outstanding penalty save in his most recent match against Rotherham United to keep his fourth clean sheet of the season in League One.
Trevor Carson also re-joins the international set-up on the back of playing for his new club, Dundee United in their 1-0 victory against St Johnstone.
Jonny Evans, Jamal Lewis and Michael Smith all return to the squad, with Craig Cathcart, Stuart Dallas, Shane Ferguson, Daniel Ballard and Ciaron Brown all retaining their places from the Summer tour.
Ferguson is one-cap away from claiming his 50th International cap and will hope to get onto the pitch at some stage during the three matches to join the ’50 Caps Club’
Paddy McNair and Conor Bradley also keep their place in the squad, but both have been listed as part of the midfield contingent for the upcoming fixture triple-header, rather than in defence as they were for the Summer tour. This highlights the versatility of these players and possibly hinting at Baraclough’s tactical thinking ahead of the upcoming matches.
McNair is another player who can claim his 50th International cap during the international break but will have to feature in all three matches, something that seems quite possible due to his current status as a leading player for Northern Ireland.
Steven Davis and Corry Evans make a welcome return to the midfield contingent, while Niall McGinn, George Saville, Jordan Thompson, Ali McCann, Gavin Whyte and Jordan Jones all retain their places from the previous squad.
In the striking department, Kyle Lafferty is the notable exemption after Baraclough stated that the form of other players and his plan to help evolve the squad meant that there was no place for Lafferty, but the door is not closed on his international career.
Conor Washington returns to the squad with his last international appearance coming back in November 2020 against Romania. He will be joined by Josh Magennis, Shane Lavery and Dion Charles.
Liam Boyce turned down the opportunity to join the international set-up this time around due to family commitments.
Northern Ireland will play three fixtures during the upcoming international window, starting with an away tie to Lithuania. The squad will then travel to Estonia for a friendly before the grudge rematch against Switzerland at Windsor Park after the “handball” incident in the FIFA World Cup 2018 Play-off first leg.
Northern Ireland squad
Goalkeepers: Bailey Peacock-Farrell (Sheffield Wednesday, loan), Trevor Carson (Dundee United), Conor Hazard (Celtic).
Defenders: Jonny Evans (Leicester City), Craig Cathcart (Watford), Stuart Dallas (Leeds United), Shane Ferguson (Rotherham United), Michael Smith (Heart of Midlothian), Jamal Lewis (Newcastle United), Daniel Ballard (Millwall, loan), Ciaron Brown (Cardiff City).
Midfielders: Steven Davis (Rangers), Corry Evans (Sunderland), Niall McGinn (Aberdeen), George Saville (Millwall), Jordan Thompson (Stoke City), Ali McCann (St Johnstone), Gavin Whyte (Oxford United, loan), Paddy McNair (Middlesbrough), Jordan Jones (Wigan Athletic), Conor Bradley (Liverpool).
Forwards: Josh Magennis (Hull City), Conor Washington (Charlton Athletic), Shayne Lavery (Blackpool), Dion Charles (Accrington Stanley).