World Cup 2018: Tom Flanagan and Michael Duffy handed first NI call-ups

Tom Flanagan gets his chance to impress NI manager Michael O'Neill
Tom Flanagan gets his chance to impress NI manager Michael O'Neill

Tom Flanagan and Michael Duffy are new faces in the Northern Ireland squad for the opening World Cup qualifier away to the Czech Republic on 4 September.

Burton Albion defender Flanagan and Celtic midfielder Duffy, who is on loan at Dundee, have both impressed for the under-21 team.

Wigan striker Will Grigg is unavailable as his partner is expecting a baby.

Aaron Hughes is also absent, with the veteran defender deemed not match fit by manager Michael O'Neill.

There is also no place in the 23-man squad for veteran goalkeeper Roy Carroll, 38, after his move from Notts County to Irish League club Linfield, with Hartlepool's Trevor Carson drafted in.

Carroll, who has 44 caps, battled with Michael McGovern for the keeper's jersey during the Euro 2016 qualifiers but the Norwich player now looks the man in possession after his impressive displays in the finals in France.

Media playback is not supported on this device

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill

Former Newcastle and Fulham player Hughes, who won his 100th cap in France, has signed for Indian Super League side Kerala Blasters.

"He will be back with the squad in October. He's in Australia and not worth bringing in for this game as he's not match fit and training on his own," said O'Neill.

Return to action

O'Neill had praise for Flanagan and Duffy as he prepares for Northern Ireland's first game since the Euro 2016 finals in France, where his side reached the last 16.

"Tom has played his way in - he's a player we have known about for some time through the U21s and with Luke McCullough injured it's a good time to bring in a new defender," he said.

"Michael is rewarded for his work with Dundee and he has played consistently for the U21s - he has always made himself available for the U21 side."

O'Neill mentioned Paddy McNair's switch from Manchester United to Sunderland and speculation linking West Brom's Jonny Evans with Arsenal.

"It was always going to be difficult for Paddy - it was important to go to a club where the manager knows him and it's the right move," he added.

"Jonny was outstanding in France. He can switch in and out of systems. He's a top-level player and could play in a top-four Premier League club. The interest from Arsenal doesn't surprise me."

Northern Ireland squad:

Goalkeepers

Michael McGovern (Norwich), Alan Mannus (St Johnstone), Trevor Carson (Hartlepool)

Defenders

Gareth McAuley, Jonny Evans (both West Brom), Craig Cathcart (Watford), Conor McLaughlin (Fleetwood), Lee Hodson (Rangers), Michael Smith (Peterborough), Tom Flanagan (Burton)

Midfielders

Steven Davis (Southampton), Niall McGinn (Aberdeen), Oliver Norwood (Brighton), Corry Evans (Blackburn), Jamie Ward (Nottingham Forest), Shane Ferguson (Millwall), Stuart Dallas (Leeds), Paddy McNair (Sunderland), Michael Duffy (Celtic, on loan at Dundee)

Forwards

Kyle Lafferty (Norwich), Josh Magennis (Charlton), Conor Washington (QPR), Liam Boyce (Ross County)

Top Stories