Michael O’Neill insists he will keep Caolan Lavery on his radar after the striker was forced to pull out of Northern Ireland’s South America tour.
The highly-rated Sheffield Wednesday striker was due to be named in O’Neill’s 23-man squad on Monday.
But a family wedding has ruled the 21-year-old out of the friendlies against Uruguay and Chile.
Lavery was set to earn his chance at senior level after impressing for the Sheffield Wednesday in the Championship.
The striker – who has played for Northern Ireland at underage level – has scored four goals in 23 appearances for the Owls.
Lavery is an exciting talent that international boss O’Neill is keen to utilise in the future.
“Sadly, due to his brother’s wedding, Caolan is unavailable for the trip to South America,” O’Neill said.
“We had included him in the provisional squad of 36 players a couple of months ago, and he would have been part of the final 23-man panel.
“Caolan’s family live in Canada, so the wedding is an important event for them and the family circle – and I can fully understand that.
“It’s just a pity with the timing, because I wanted to give Caolan the opportunity in the senior team.
“He has been with the U21s and it would have been great to introduce him to the senior set-up.”
Despite missing out on the forthcoming games against World Cup finalists Uruguay and Chile, O’Neill will continue to monitor Lavery ahead of Northern Ireland’s European Championship qualifiers – which kick-off against Hungary in September.
“Caolan can play up top or on the right wing, so he gives us more options,” O’Neill added.
“He will certainly stay on my radar ahead of the qualifying campaign.
“Caolan has made a positive impact at Sheffield Wednesday and recently signed a new contract. So he is obviously doing things right at his club.
“He has good attributes. He has a good physical presence and is a strong athletic who can run in behind defences.
“He has chipped in with a few goals when he has played through the middle, but I’ve also seen him play wide so he is flexible and versatile.
“I have been aware of Caolan for some time and he is a player who is on my radar, particularly with the Euro qualifying campaign just around the corner.”
O’Neill will name his 23 man squad for Uruguay and Chile on Monday.
The Northern Ireland boss is expected to include a number of younger players, with some of his more senior personnel unavailable.
O’Neill’s side play Uruguay – who are in England’s World Cup group – in Montevideo on May 30, and then face Chile in Valparaiso on June 4.
Chile are in the same World Cup group as Spain, Holland and Australia.