Conor McMenamin remains with Northern Ireland squad with no further sanction
Glentoran winger Conor McMenamin, 27, was withdrawn just ahead of Saturday’s match against Kosovo in Belfast after the emergence of a video in which he appeared to be engaging in a pro-IRA chant.
However, he was reinstated for the trip to Greece when the Irish Football Association (IFA) was satisfied that the clip was several years old, and that he had been sanctioned by his club at the time.
It was revealed at a pre-match press conference on Monday afternoon that McMenamin would face no further sanctions.
Kilmarnock striker Kyle Lafferty, 35, who was withdrawn from the squad last week after a video circulating on social media appeared to show him using an anti-Catholic slur, has not returned to the squad.
The disruption to the team’s preparations and the intense media scrutiny has created a headache for manager Ian Baraclough, and threatened to overshadowed two historic milestones likely to be celebrated tonight.
Leicester City defender Jonny Evans is due to win his 100th cap, while Steven Davis looks set to increase his all-time UK record to 140 international appearances.
Northern Ireland require a better result than Cyprus’s against Kosovo to avoid a relegation play-off following the final round of games in the group stage.
McMenamin has won three caps for Northern Ireland following his first call-up this summer. Lafferty is Northern Ireland’s second highest goal scorer, netting 20 times in 89 appearances.
Speaking to the media in Athens, Baraclough said he understood the Kyle Lafferty incident captured on video took place in the hours after the squad went out for dinner in Belfast.
He said: “We all went out. We all went to the restaurant and we all came back. The players had a day off the next day. They are adults.
“They know they have got a responsibility and when they are on international duty they are still representing themselves, their clubs, their families and me. You can’t keep them cooped up in a hotel and you give them a certain amount of trust.
“It might be something that we look at further down the line. It has always served Northern Irish teams really well when they have had that bit of time to themselves, so for me it was something we weren’t expecting to wake up to those sorts of headlines and that type of news. I’m disappointed.”
Commenting on the McMenamin situation, the manager said the player had been “distraught” when initially informed he was being sent home on Saturday.
“I think it’s one thing to give him the bad news, it’s another then saying you want him to travel.
“To be able to give him that news is obviously a better conversation.”
The IFA did not respond to a request to clarify what sanction McMenamin faced from his club when the video first emerged.