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Paddy McNair named in Northern Ireland squad

Paddy McNair named in Northern Ireland squad
© Reuters
Paddy McNair is selected despite an injury concern while there are first call-ups for Accrington striker Charles and Derry City goalkeeper Gartside.

Paddy McNair has been included in the Northern Ireland squad for their opening World Cup qualifiers next week despite an injury concern.

McNair was forced off with a knee problem in Middlesbrough's win over Preston on Tuesday night but takes his place in Ian Baraclough's 26-strong squad.

There are also first call-ups for Accrington striker Dion Charles and Derry City goalkeeper Nathan Gartside, but Ethan Galbraith, Tom Flanagan and Ryan McLaughlin are all absent.

Both Charles and Gartside have previously represented Northern Ireland at youth level.

Charles, 25, is having a superb season with Accrington and has scored 17 goals across 38 appearances so far this term.

Gartside takes his place alongside regular number one Bailey Peacock-Farrell and Conor Hazard in the squad, with both Michael McGovern and Trevor Carson out injured.

Blackburn's Corry Evans is back in the squad after being hampered by injuries. He is joined by his brother Jonny, with the Leicester defender having overcome a calf problem.

Jonny Evans
Jonny Evans has made the Northern Ireland squad (Liam McBurney/PA)

Liam Boyce is included in the squad, although he may not join up with his team-mates immediately as he awaits the birth of his second child.

However, Sunderland loanee Jordan Jones misses out with injury.

Northern Ireland begin their qualifying campaign away to Italy in Parma on March 25 before facing Bulgaria at Windsor Park on March 31, with a friendly at home to the United States in between.

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Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny pictured on November 15, 2020
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