International boss rues injuries to Blackpool striker as disappointing Euro 2024 qualifying campaign nears finish
Blackpool and Northern Ireland striker Shayne Lavery is currently out with a hamstring injury
The Ulstermen conclude their round of fixtures for next summer’s finals with games against Finland tonight and Denmark on Monday.
They’ll be looking to produce a positive finish on a generally disappointing campaign that has witnessed just two wins from eight matches and leaves O’Neill’s side second from bottom in Group H.
But Northern Ireland will once again have to do it without the services of Blackpool striker Lavery, who has been nursing a hamstring injury since the Seasiders beat Bromley in the FA Cup on November 4. That has seen the 24-year-old miss Blackpool’s past two games - and rules the former Linfield man out of tomorrow’s League One game against Shrewsbury.
A similar injury also forced Lavery to miss the September internationals against Slovenia and Kazakhstan. Meanwhile, it was another hamstring problem which denied him the chance to add to his international caps haul for the qualifying campaign’s start back in March.
It means the Bloomfield Road marksman will have featured just twice times for his country this calendar year. That’s proved frustrating for O’Neil in his second period in charge as Northern Ireland manager.
Speaking ahead of tonight’s game in Helsinki, the former Stoke boss said: ‘The squad is very similar to what the previous game was. We’re still without obviously the longer-term injuries. Conor Bradley, Alistair McCann for example are still missing, Shayne Lavery is still missing through injury
‘So, you know, they are three players that we would have hoped to have had a lot more out of this campaign but their involvement has been very minimal on top of the older players who have missed out
‘Look, I think the squad is pretty consistent. It is what it is in terms of where we are at this moment in time. The supporters have been really good. They understand, I think where we are. They have a patience, but obviously, they want a team that will give them hope and something to get excited about.’
Lavery has 17 caps to his name and three international goals following his senior Northern Ireland debut against Panama in 2018. He’s featured 15 times for Neil Critchley’s side this season, bagging five goals.