NORTHERN IRELAND: Michael O’Neill hands Gavin Whyte a senior call-up as part of mixed squad for Panama and Costa Rica

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill confirming his squad for the tour of Central America against Panama and Costa Rica. Pic by PressEye Ltd.
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill confirming his squad for the tour of Central America against Panama and Costa Rica. Pic by PressEye Ltd.

Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill will pack his plane to Central America with a mix of youth and experience for summer fixtures with Panama and Costa Rica.

The 22-man panel includes Irish League star Gavin Whyte as one of four fresh faces aiming to pick up a first senior cap - alongside veteran campaigners such as Aaron Hughes and Gareth McAuley.

The tour offers the assurance of past glory days alongside the potential for future progress, with that balance key to O’Neill’s planning.

“Gavin has been exceptional this season and I was really impressed by his performances with Northern Ireland under 21s,” said O’Neill. “Reading between the lines, he is on the verge of, hopefully, moving to England and, hopefully, his inclusion here helps that.

“It’s a case of this is the squad we have selected to have a balance.

“I think we have enough to deal with the two games.”

Scunthorpe United’s Cameron McGeehan is another uncapped inclusion alongside goalkeepers Bailey Peacock-Farrell of Leeds United and Celtic’s Conor Hazard.

Injury-related absences include Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis, Jamie Ward, Niall McGinn, Jordan Jones and Jamal Lewis - with others missing out due to personal commitments.

Northern Ireland will play Panama on Tuesday, May 29 and Costa Rica on Sunday, June 3.

The full squad is as follows: Trevor Carson, Conor Hazard, Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Aaron Hughes, Gareth McAuley, Jonny Evans, Craig Cathcart, Conor McLaughlin, Lee Hodgson, Luke McCullough, Oliver Norwood, Corry Evans, Shane Ferguson, Stuart Dallas, Paddy McNair, George Saville, Gavin Whyte, Cameron McGeehan, Josh Magennis, Liam Boyce, Paul Smyth, Shay McCartan.