The return of Cameron Dummigan and Jordan Thompson has boosted the Northern Ireland Under-21s squad ahead of their forthcoming games against Iceland and Slovakia.
Northern Ireland U21 manager Ian Baraclough knows that wins away to Iceland and home against Slovakia will give his side an outside chance of qualifying for a play-off for a place at next year’s U21 Euros.
And he believes the inclusion of Oldham Athletic defender Dummigan and Blackpool midfielder Thompson gives the squad an important injection of experience.
Dummigan, who has been injured for most of the season but is now fit and raring to go, and Thompson, who was suspended for last month’s superb 2-1 win away to Spain, have been important players in previous games in the team’s UEFA U21 Championship 2019 Group 2 qualifiers.
Also included in the 21-strong squad for the final two qualifiers is versatile Doncaster Rovers defender Danny Amos. He was called up for the first time for the double header against Luxembourg and Spain but had to withdraw from the panel due to injury.
U21s boss Baraclough admitted he had to make some tough calls when he was putting his squad together for the game against Iceland U21s in Reykjavik on 11 October and Slovakia U21s in the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park on 16 October.
“It was difficult picking a squad. There are players missing out who have been part of previous squads in this campaign, however all the players know you have to be at the top of your game now to be selected.
“Playing against Slovakia at the National Football Stadium in the second game will also help the players.
It will be an opportunity for them to show what they can do.
“With young players like Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Jamal Lewis and Gavin Whyte getting into the senior panel they know they have a chance to follow in their footsteps. It gives the guys a chance to impress,” he added,
The Northern Ireland U21 squad features:
Goalkeepers – Conor Mitchell (St Johnstone – on loan from Burnley), Conor Hazard (Celtic);
Defenders – Cameron Dummigan (Oldham Athletic), Danny Amos (Doncaster Rovers), Pierce Bird (Notts County), Nathan Kerr (Glentoran), Bobby Burns (Livingston), Liam Donnelly (Motherwell), Ryan Johnson (Kidderminster), Daniel Ballard (Arsenal);
Midfielders – Jordan Thompson (Blackpool), Dale Gorman (Leyton Orient), Kyle McClean (St Johnstone), Mark Sykes (Glenavon), Jamie McDonagh (Derry City), Jake Dunwoody (Stoke City);
Forwards – Paul Smyth (Queens Park Rangers), David Parkhouse (Sheffield United), Shayne Lavery (Everton), Rory Holden (Bristol City), Alistair Roy (Derry City).