Craig Cathcart: Watford defender ruled out of Northern Ireland qualifiers

Craig Cathcart
Watford defender Craig Cathcart has earned 33 Northern Ireland caps

Watford defender Craig Cathcart has been ruled out of Northern Ireland's World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and the Czech Republic.

Cathcart, 28, sustained a knee injury in his club's Premier League draw with Brighton on Saturday.

Hearts defender Michael Smith, who earned his only cap last year, has been called into the squad as a replacement.

Uncapped Leeds United goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell has also been added to the squad.

Cathcart's absence is a blow to manager Michael O'Neill as experienced West Brom defender Gareth McAuley will miss both games because of a thigh injury.

Northern Ireland face San Marino away on Friday evening before the home qualifier against the Czech Republic on 4 September.

O'Neill's side are second in Group C and on course for a play-off spot.

With four rounds of fixtures left, world champions Germany lead the table on a maximum 18 points with Northern Ireland five points off the place and the Czechs a further four points adrift in third spot.

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