Uncapped Mark Sykes gets Northern Ireland call ahead of Euro 2020 qualifiers

Blackpool's Jay Spearing vies for possession with Oxford United's Mark Sykes
Blackpool's Jay Spearing vies for possession with Oxford United's Mark Sykes

Oxford United duo Mark Sykes and Gavin Whyte have been called in to the Northern Ireland training squad ahead of next month’s qualifiers for Euro 2020.

The uncapped Skyes and Whyte both helped the English league One side avoid relegation this season.

Manager Michael O’Neill has also recalled Motherwell goalkeeper Trevor Carson having not played competitively since developing deep vein thrombosis in November.

And striker Kyle Vassell is also recalled.

Having won their first two games at home in their group, Northern Ireland will look to continue their good form when they play the reverse fixtures against Estonia on June 8 and meet Belarus three days later.

That would leave them in a good position ahead of games against Germany and The Netherlands.

O’Neill has left out centre-half Craig Cathcart, who played in Watford’s FA Cup final defeat by Manchester City on Saturday along with captain Steven Davis.

Leeds United pair Stuart Dallas and Bailey Peacock-Farrell, whose club lost in last week’s Championship play-off semi-finals, are also not included.

Will Grigg, who will be hoping to feature for Sunderland in next week’s League One play-off final, is also rested. Sheffield United midfielder Oliver Norwood is missing again, after declaring himself unavailable for the opening two Euro qualifiers in March.

The three-day training camp is taking place in Manchester this week with 20 players involved with a second taking place next week.

O’Neill will name his squad for the away double header after next week’s training camp.

Attacking midfielder Sykes, who joined League One’s Oxford from Glenavon in January, is a former Northern Ireland Under-21 international.

He made nine league appearances for Oxford, who finished the season in 12th position after moving away from the relegation zone.

Carson, meanwhile, developed DVT in his shoulder following his appearance for Northern Ireland in their Uefa Nations League defeat by Austria last November.

The 31-year-old, who has won five caps for his country, was on the bench for Motherwell’s final Scottish Premiership game of the season against Livingston on Saturday.

Northern Ireland squad

Goalkeepers - Michael McGovern (Norwich City), Trevor Carson (Motherwell), Conor Hazard (Celtic).

Defenders - Paddy McNair (Middlesbrough), Conor McLaughlin (unattached), Daniel Ballard (Arsenal), Ryan McLaughlin (Rochdale), Jonny Evans (Leicester City).

Midfielders - George Saville (Middlesbrough), Mark Sykes (Oxford United), Gavin Whyte (Oxford United), Jordan Thompson (Blackpool), Shane Ferguson (Millwall), Corry Evans (Blackburn Rovers).

Forwards - Conor Washington (unattached), Josh Magennis (Bolton Wanderers), Liam Boyce (Burton Albion), Paul Smyth (QPR), Kyle Lafferty (Rangers), Kyle Vassell (Rotherham United).