Doncaster Rovers’ Luke McCullough has retained his place in the Northern Ireland squad for their upcoming Euro 2016 qualifier with Romania in Bucharest on November 14.
The central defender could be in the frame for a place in the starting XI for the match, with regular defender Aaron Hughes struggling with an ankle injury picked up while playing for Brighton against Bournemouth on Saturday, while Jonny Evans is a long-term absentee.
McCullough faces competition from Watford’s Craig Cathcart and Manchester United youngster Paddy McNair for a position, likely to be alongside West Brom’s Gareth McAuley, while versatile Chris Baird, also at West Brom, is also an option for Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill.
However, McCullough’s regular football at the Keepmoat this season could tip the balance in his favour.
Twenty-year old former Manchester United academy player McCullough has been a mainstay in international squads since impressing for his country in the summer mini tour of South America when he and his team mates faced the likes of Uruguay’s Edinson Cavani and Arsenal’s Chilean striker Alexis Sánchez.
O’Neill said: “Luke McCullough played for us in Uruguay and Chile and did well and I would have no hesitation in putting Luke in. And we have others that can play in the centre of defence, we’ll just assess the situation over the week.”
Northern Ireland top their group having won all three of their games so far against Hungary, Faroe Islands and Greece.
Northern Ireland squad to face Romania on November 14: Roy Carroll (Notts County), Alan Mannus (St Johnstone), Michael McGovern (Hamilton); Aaron Hughes (Brighton), Chris Baird (Burnley), Gareth McAuley (West Brom), Ryan McGivern (Port Vale), Craig Cathcart (Watford), Conor McLaughlin (Fleetwood), Luke McCullough (Doncaster), Ryan McLaughlin (Liverpool), Patrick McNair (Manchester United); Steven Davis (Southampton), Chris Brunt (West Brom), Sammy Clingan (Kilmarnock), Corry Evans (Blackburn), Oliver Norwood (Reading), Ben Reeves (MK Dons), Pat McCourt (Brighton), Niall McGinn (Aberdeen); Kyle Lafferty (Norwich), Jamie Ward (Norwich), Josh Magennis (Kilmarnock), Billy McKay (Inverness), Will Grigg (MK Dons).