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'It's good to have him back' - Apologetic Kyle Lafferty returns to Northern Ireland squad for Dublin friendy

Michael O’Neill’s men take on Ireland next Thursday before rounding off their Nations League campaign against Austria.

Lafferty in action against Bosnia and Herzegovina's Toni Sunjic.
Lafferty in action against Bosnia and Herzegovina's Toni Sunjic.
Image: PA Wire/PA Images

KYLE LAFFERTY HAS been named in Michael O’Neill’s Northern Ireland squad to face the Republic of Ireland next Thursday in Dublin, with the player apologising for ruling himself out of last month’s Uefa Nations League double-header.

Lafferty withdrew from the national squad for upcoming games against Austria and Bosnia, citing an Achilles problem. The striker rang manager O’Neill at midnight the day before the squad met, but has since apologised for “an error of judgement”.

The Northern Ireland FA then invoked Fifa’s five-day rule, meaning Lafferty had to miss out on Rangers’ next Scottish Premiership game against Hamilton.

The striker spoke with boss O’Neill this week about the incident, and has been named in Northern Ireland’s 28-man squad for next week’s friendly at the Aviva Stadium.

“I spoke to Kyle on the phone and in person in Glasgow,” said O’Neill. “I also spoke to Steven Gerrard (Rangers manager).

“It’s good to have him back in. He has an injury concern, so his availability is contingent on how he comes through the weekend.”

O’Neill’s men will take on Ireland for the first time since meeting in the Nations Cup back in 2011, before facing Austria in their final Nations League game in Belfast on 18 November.

Motherwell v Rangers - Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership - Fir Park The Fermanagh native joined Rangers in August 2018. Source: PA Wire/PA Images

They are facing into the prospect of relegation, following back-to-back defeats in October. Northern Ireland fell 1-0 away to Austria, before tasting defeat 2-0 against Bosnia three days later — leaving them bottom of Group 3 with zero points.

Rangers striker Lafferty is also seeking to end a two-year goal drought. The 31-year-old from Enniskillen has scored 20 times for his country, but has not hit the back of the net since scoring against Azerbaijan in a World Cup qualifier back in November 2016.

Northern Ireland 28-man squad:

Goalkeepers: Michael McGovern (Norwich City), Trevor Carson (Motherwell), Bailey Peacock-Farrell (Leeds United), Conor Hazard (Celtic).

Defenders: Aaron Hughes (Hearts), Gareth McAuley (Glasgow Rangers), Jonathan Evans (Leicester City), Craig Cathcart (Watford), Conor McLaughlin (Millwall), Patrick McNair (Middlesbrough), Jamal Lewis (Norwich City), Michael Smith (Hearts), Tom Flanagan (Sunderland).

Midfielders: Steven Davis (Southampton), Niall McGinn (Aberdeen), Corry Evans (Blackburn Rovers), Shane Ferguson (Millwall), Stuart Dallas (Leeds United), George Saville (Middlesbrough, loan), Jordan Jones (Kilmarnock), Gavin Whyte (Oxford United), Jordan Thompson (Blackpool).

Forwards: Kyle Lafferty (Rangers), Josh Magennis (Bolton Wanderers), Jamie Ward (Charlton Athletic, loan), Liam Boyce (Burton Albion), Paul Smyth (Queens Park Rangers), Kyle Vassell (Rotherham United).

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Aaron Gallagher

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