O'neill Turns to Youth for Dutch Clash
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill is looking forward to blooding a youthful squad against Holland after a host of first-choice players were declared unavailable for the forthcoming friendly in Amsterdam.
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Post-season friendlies have traditionally been tough ones for Northern Ireland bosses, with serial withdrawals a common factor and although O'Neill is without many of his senior men for his second game in charge, he is focused on learning about some new faces on June 2.
With Steve Davis, Jonny Evans, Gareth McAuley, Chris Brunt, Aaron Hughes, Kyle Lafferty and Dean Shiels all missing, O'Neill has summoned uncapped quartet James McPake, Rory Donnelly, Daniel Lafferty and Will Grigg, while there are recalls for Jeff Hughes and Rory McArdle.
Former Manchester United goalkeeper Roy Carroll, currently with Olympiakos, is also back after winning the last of his 19 caps in 2006.
"Injuries have played a big part in terms of the ones who aren't available," O'Neill told Press Association Sport.
"Kyle, Steve, Dean, Chris and Jonny are all injured, as are Martin Paterson and Jamie Ward. Some have had surgery and others will have to. Gareth McAuley has wedding commitments and Aaron Hughes informed me when he came out of retirement that he had family commitments.
"It would nice to have them available but what is really important for me is that they are at the start of the World Cup qualifying campaign.
"But there are a number of others players in the squad who won't have had the opportunity to play at this level, against a team like Holland, before.
"It's important for me see how they handle that because we will have games like this in the World Cup campaign - away to Russia, away to Israel, away to Portugal. These are intimidating places and matches and this is an opportunity to see how these players deal with that. The performances and the three days we have together will be more important than focusing on the result."
Scotland-born McPake, who qualifies via the grandparents rule, represents the first success of O'Neill's policy of expanding the available player pool.
The defender ended the season on loan at Hibernian from Coventry and has opted to throw his lot in with Northern Ireland after failing to win international recognition with Scotland.
O'Neill has made it clear he is willing to consider anybody who is eligible for the country, regardless of where they were born, and has been working behind the scenes to persuade others to follow suit.
"James has a lot of attributes that can be very useful for us. He's versatile, can play anywhere across the back and he's been on the fringes of the Scottish squad.
"This is a good opportunity for us and a good opportunity for him.
"His agent notified me of his eligibility and we followed it up quickly, so this has all happened in the last couple of weeks.
"I spend a lot of time researching the available players because we need as many as possible. I have spoken to a number of others and some haven't made that decision at this point in time or aren't willing to change their allegiance at the moment. But we will continue to monitor and strengthen."
The inclusion of Donnelly is another eye-catching move.
The former Cliftonville striker attracted bids from Liverpool and Everton in January, but eventually opted for Swansea.
He has yet to feature for their first team but has been a regular in the reserve side and has been part of Northern Ireland Under-21 squads.
"This is all part of Rory's development. He's a young player at the start of his career but he's at a very good club with a very good manager in Brendan Rodgers and that's the right place to develop," he said.
"I've had numerous conversations with Brendan and I've met with Rory personally and I've decided this is the right time to bring him in. He has great raw materials, no doubt about that, and this lets him see what international football is all about.
"O'Neill hinted he would give Carroll an opportunity to resurrect his Northern Ireland career when he took over the job from Nigel Worthington and has now made good on that.
He added: "Roy is someone I know well, he was a young player at Wigan when I was there. I have a good relationship with him personally and he's rebuilt his career abroad, which is a brave decision. He's played in Denmark and now Greece and he's in Olympiakos he's at a club in the Champions League.
"It would be remiss of me not to consider Roy."
Squad: Camp (Nottingham Forest), Mannus (St Johnstone), Carroll (Olympiacos); Duff (Burnley), McGivern (Manchester City), Hodson (Watford), Coates (Crusaders), McArdle (Aberdeen), Lafferty (Burnley), McPake (Coventry); Clingan (Coventry), McCann (Peterborough), Evans (Hull), Ferguson (Newcastle), Hughes (Notts County), Norwood (Manchester United), McCourt (Celtic); Healy (Rangers), McQuoid (Millwall), McGinn (Celtic), Carson (Ipswich), Little (Rangers), Grigg (Walsall), Donnelly (Swansea).