Ferguson and McCourt named in N Ireland squad

Northern Ireland Manager Michael O'Neill at Monday's squad announcement at Hampden Park, Glasgow. Picture by Darren Kidd/PresssEye
Northern Ireland Manager Michael O'Neill at Monday's squad announcement at Hampden Park, Glasgow. Picture by Darren Kidd/PresssEye
Share this article

Local pair Shane Ferguson and Paddy McCourt are in Michael O’Neill 27-man squad for the forthcoming games against Scotland and Finland.

Northern Ireland play Scotland at Hampden Park in a friendly on Wednesday, March 25 and four days later they host Finland at Windsor Park in a crunch Euro 2016 qualifier.

Defender Jonny Evans – currently serving a six-game suspension with Manchester Utd – returns to the squad after missing all of the current European campaign through suspension and injury.

Brentford youngster Stuart Dallas has also been named in O’Neill’s squad – the ex-Crusaders winger also missed the November qualifier in Romania through injury.

Newcastle Utd’s Ferguson has been included, but O’Neill admits the versatile left-sided player, now on loan at Rangers, is a major doubt for the games as he continues to recover from a knee injury.

Evans’ Man Utd team-mate Paddy McNair has been named, as has McCourt who is currently on-loan at Notts County from Brighton.

“The Scotland game offers me the opportunity to give some game time to players who maybe haven’t played much during the Euro campaign, or maybe not featuring much for their club,” O’Neill said.

“There are a lot of factors to take into consideration. The two goalkeepers - Alan Mannus and Michael McGovern - have travelled around the world in the last 18-24 months and had limited opportunities. They are both having good seasons in the SPL.

“Aaron Hughes hasn’t played much this season. He hasn’t started a game since January 21. The Jonny Evans situation, Paddy McNair too – there are a lot of situations where players will welcome the chance to play against Scotland. We will assess things when we meet up.”