12152017

Ward and McNair return for Northern Ireland’s World Cup play-off

Aaron Hughes was named in the provisional squad for the qualifiers against Germany and Norway but had to withdraw with a calf injury

Aaron Hughes was named in the provisional squad for the qualifiers against Germany and Norway but had to withdraw with a calf injury

Jamie Ward has been recalled to the Northern Ireland squad for the World Cup play-off against Switzerland.

The Nottingham Forest striker was unavailable for most of the qualifying campaign because of a calf injury but has recently return to club duty.

Aaron Hughes has also been included after missing the qualifiers against Germany and Norway while Paddy McNair returns after an 11-month lay-off.

The first-leg is on 9 November with the return match in Basel three days later.

Manager Michael O’Neill has also given Scunthorpe defender Rory McArdle a recall, with the 30-year-old winning the last of his seven caps in March 2014.

O’Neill has selected a squad of 27 players for the matches at Windsor Park and St Jakob Park with the Bradford City duo of Shay McCartan and Adam Thompson both dropping out of contention but Jonny Evans has recovered from his injury scare to retain his place.

Hughes has yet to return to duty for his club, Hearts since withdrawing from the final Group C qualifiers against Germany and Norway but the veteran defender could feature against Kilmarnock on Sunday before linking up with his international colleagues in Belfast.

“Aaron has worked hard to be fit and done personal training sessions in Manchester,” O’Neill said.

McNair made his return from an anterior cruciate ligament injury on Saturday when he came of the bench for the last 11 minutes of Sunderland’s 2-1 loss to Bristol City.

The 22-year-old has been sidelined since last November and O’Neill admits he is unlikely to be fit enough to start either of the matches.

“It’s important for Paddy to be involved but he will be assessed,” he said.

“I spoke to (Sunderland boss) Simon Grayson and we are optimistic he will be fine.

“For Paddy to be out has been difficult for him. It’s important he is with us. We don’t expect him to start but hope he can be involved.”

Northern Ireland squad

Goalkeepers: Roy Carroll (Linfield), Michael McGovern (Norwich), Alan Mannus (St. Johnstone)

Defenders: Aaron Hughes (Hearts), Gareth McAuley (West Brom), Jonny Evans (West Brom), Chris Brunt (West Brom), Conor McLaughlin (Millwall), Lee Hodson (Rangers), Paddy McNair (Sunderland), Daniel Lafferty (Sheffield United), Rory McArdle (Scunthorpe), Tom Flanagan (Burton)

Midfielders: Steven Davis (Southampton), Niall McGinn (Gwangju), Oliver Norwood (Fulham), Corry Evans (Blackburn), Shane Ferguson (Millwall), Stuart Dallas (Leeds), Paul Paton (St. Johnstone), Matthew Lund (Burton), Jordan Jones (Kilmarnock), George Saville (Millwall)

Forwards: Kyle Lafferty (Hearts), Josh Magennis (Charlton), Conor Washington (QPR), Jamie Ward (Nottingham Forest)

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