Jonny Evans is back in the Northern Ireland squad for next week’s Euro 2024 qualifiers but Michael O’Neill will once again be relying on youth with a long list of senior players still injured.
Evans – out of contract at relegated Leicester this summer – was unable to add to his 100 caps in March when he was forced to pull out of O’Neill’s first games back in charge of the national team due to a hamstring injury, but is in a 28-man squad to play Denmark away and Kazakhstan at home.
But with Steven Davis, Stuart Dallas, Corry Evans, Liam Boyce, Josh Magennis, Conor Washington and Shane Ferguson all still sidelined, O’Neill has included five uncapped players, with 15 of the 28 having fewer than 10 caps.
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Nottingham Forest defender Aaron Donnelly, West Ham teenager Callum Marshall and Larne forward Lee Bonis have all received their first call-ups, with the uncapped Sean Goss and Eoin Toal again included after not featuring in March’s fixtures.
Blackpool striker Shayne Lavery returns after a hamstring injury kept him out of the last squad, although there will be a question over his fitness levels as he has managed only one appearance, as a substitute away to Norwich on the final day, since being sidelined in February.
There is also a return for Ethan Galbraith, who earned the last of his two international caps back in 2020.
The 22-year-old is a free agent this summer after leaving Manchester United, having spent last season on loan at Salford.
O’Neill has been working with several players from both the senior ranks and the under-21s at a series of training camps in recent weeks, aiming to keep his players sharp following the end of their domestic campaigns.
Northern Ireland travel to Copenhagen to face Denmark on Friday June 16 before taking on Kazakhstan at Windsor Park the following Monday.