Euro 2016 squads Group C : Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland topped their qualifying group ahead of Romania with the manager, Michael O’Neill, trying all sorts of formations (4-3-3, 4-1-4-1 and 4-3-2-1). They are a really difficult side to break down.


“We are going to have to outrun the opposition, as simple as that,” said Michael O’Neill after they had qualified. The five-man midfield takes some breaking down.


There is a lack of depth in the squad, illustrated best perhaps by the fact that they have tried a three-man defence after losing Chris Brunt to injury. Not a lot of other options around.


Setting you back just 4.5 in Uefa and listed as a defender, Chris Baird offers O’Neill an option at the back or in a defensive central midfield role. The former West Brom man started eight of the ten qualifiers and looks more reliable for minutes than the similarly-priced Craig Cathcart and Paddy McNair, who also started against Belarus at the weekend. Should he be handed a role in the centre of the park, Baird is another to consider for defensive actions in the game.

The situation in goal is somewhat uncertain as both Roy Carroll and Michael McGovern started five qualifiers apiece and have been named in the XI in two of the last four friendlies. The duo are priced at 4.5 in Uefa and if one can emerge as O’Neill’s first-choice stopper, could prove decent value – it’s worth keeping an eye on their line up against Slovakia on June 4 for any clarification.

Strikers Conor Washington and Will Grigg are priced at 5.0 and bagged a goal apiece at the weekend. Although the former is the most popular forward under 6.0 in Uefa, with 3% ownership, he has been afforded a single sub appearance of late – against Belarus on Sunday. Washington, on the other hand, has been named in the XI in each of the last three friendlies and seems a more secure pick for those tight on funds.

Niall McGinn earned more appearances that any wide player over the qualifiers and chipped in with a trio of assists. His appeal is virtually non-existent in the Uefa game due to his classification as a forward but if he’s listed as a midfielder , could be a viable budget enabler.

Goalkeepers: Roy Carroll (Notts County), Michael McGovern (Hamilton), Alan McManus (St Johnstone)

Defenders: Craig Cathcart (Watford), Jonny Evans (West Brom), Gareth McAuley (West Brom), Luke McCullough (Doncaster), Conor McLaughlin (Fleetwood), Aaron Hughes (Melbourne City), Lee Hodson (MK Dons), Chris Baird (Derby County), Paddy McNair (Manchester United.

Midfielders: Steven Davis (Southampton), Oliver Norwood (Reading), Corry Evans (Blackburn), Jamie Ward (Nottingham Forest), Stuart Dallas (Leeds), Niall McGinn (Aberdeen), Shane Ferguson (Millwall)

Forwards: Will Grigg (Wigan), Kyle Lafferty (Birmingham), Conor Washington (QPR), Josh Magennis (Kilmarnock)
N.Ireland goalkeepers

Michael McGovern No1 goalkeeper
  • Club Hamilton Academicals
  • Age 31
  • Caps 10
  • Goals 0

Replaced Roy Carroll, his fellow Enniskillen-born keeper, during the Euro qualifying campaign but his hold on the number one spot faltered after an almost-costly slip against Hungary. Was otherwise assured for O’Neill’s team as he made up for lost time having endured a five-year wait from 2010 to win his second cap.

Roy Carroll

  • Club Notts County
  • Age 38
  • Caps 44
  • Goals 0
A first major tournament beckons for the veteran goalkeeper 19 year after his international debut. Carroll was overlooked by his country for six years, reclaimed and then lost his place in Michael O’Neill’s team through illness, but remains in contention for a start in France. Impressed in the warm-up win over Slovenia.
Alan Mannus
  • Club St Johnstone
  • Age 34
  • Caps 8
  • Goals 0
Born in Toronto, although the Canadian FA never got in touch, the back-up keeper has been a regular in the Northern Ireland set-up for 12 years.

N.Ireland midfielders

Oliver Norwood
  • Club Reading
  • Age 25
  • Caps 32
  • Goals 0
The only player to start all 10 games of Northern Ireland’s record unbeaten run and played more minutes in the qualifying campaign than anyone else. Played for England at youth level but claims he was “tapped-up” by the Evans’ brothers during their time together at Manchester United.
Steven Davis Unsung hero
  • Club Southampton
  • Age 31
  • Caps 82
  • Goals 8
Has seen it all with Northern Ireland, from defeat in Luxembourg during a World Cup qualifying campaign that produced one win in 10 games to the joy of securing a ticket to the Euros with two goals against Greece. The first captain to lead Northern Ireland to a European Championships was outstanding in qualifying. “One of the most under-rated players in the Premier League,” says O’Neill.
Stuart Dallas
  • Club Leeds United
  • Age 25
  • Caps 13
  • Goals 1
The Cookstown-born winger became a regular in O’Neill’s plans only last year but proved such an effective, reliable outlet – on either the left or right flank – that he appeared in all 10 games of Northern Ireland’s record unbeaten run.
Paddy McNair
  • Club Manchester United
  • Age 21
  • Caps 8
  • Goals 0
Won his first cap against Scotland in March last year having come through the international ranks as a midfielder with Northern Ireland. Switched to defence by the coaches at Old Trafford, but O’Neill believes holding midfield is the youngster’s best position and deployed him there in Baird’s absence against Wales and Slovenia.
Niall McGinn
  • Club Aberdeen
  • Age 28
  • Caps 41
  • Goals 2
Became the first Derry City player to win a Northern Ireland cap in 19 years when given his debut by Nigel Worthington in 2008. Influential throughout qualifying, he produced a vital goal in the win over Hungary and assists for three of Kyle Lafferty’s seven goals.

Corry Evans

  • Club Blackburn Rovers
  • Age 25
  • Caps 33
  • Goals 1
Made his international debut against Italy in 2009 without ever making a first team appearance for Manchester United. The versatility of the younger Evans’ brother has been important to several managers since, although an established role has been hard to come by.

N.Ireland defenders

Gareth McAuleyHard man

  • Club West Bromwich Albion
  • Age 36
  • Caps 60
  • Goals 7
Overlooked at every level of international football until he was 25, the epitome of the late developer has become an integral part of Northern Ireland’s disciplined defence. Hugely popular with supporters and carries an important threat at set-pieces for O’Neill’s team.

Jonny Evans Defensive mainstay

  • Club West Bromwich Albion
  • Age 28
  • Caps 48
  • Goals 1
Lawrie Sanchez handed the defender an international debut before he played for Manchester United in 2006 and the then 18-year-old flourished in a memorable European Championship qualifying win over Spain. Restricted by injury to only four qualifiers en route to France but his experience and understanding alongside Gareth McAuley is crucial to O’Neill.
Craig Cathcart
  • Club Watford
  • Age 27
  • Caps 27
  • Goals 2
Another of Northern Ireland’s ex-Manchester United contingent, the defender has been used in a central back three by O’Neill but could operate at left back in France after Chris Brunt was ruled out by injury. Scored his first international goal in the final qualifier in Finland and added another in the friendly against Wales in March.
Conor McLaughlin
  • Club Fleetwood Town
  • Age 24
  • Caps 16
  • Goals 0
The attack-minded right back established himself as first choice during the qualifying campaign. Belfast-born and brother of fellow international Ryan, he intends to repay Fleetwood Town for resurrecting his career following his release by Preston North End. “It will be brilliant to see Fleetwood represented at the European Championships,” he said.
Luke McCullough
  • Club Doncaster Rovers
  • Age 22
  • Caps 5
  • Goals 0
The former Manchester United reserve impressed on an end-of-season tour of South America in 2014 against Uruguay and Chile. His ability to play central defence, right back or in central midfield could be beneficial in the tournament.
Shane Ferguson
  • Club Millwall
  • Age 24
  • Caps 24
  • Goals 1
Started the Euro qualifying campaign at left back but has also been used as a wing-back and winger depending on O’Neill’s tactics, although the former Gaelic footballer is yet to secure a regular place for club or country.

Lee Hodson

  • Club MK Dons
  • Age 24
  • Caps 15
  • Goals 0
The Borehamwood-born defender with a Belfast-born grandmother made his international debut under Nigel Worthington and, though not a regular under O’Neill, his versatility across defence could be important.
Aaron Hughes
  • Club Melbourne City
  • Age 36
  • Caps 99
  • Goals 1
The longest serving member of the squad – having made his debut under Lawrie McMenemy in 1998 and captained his country 46 times – was talked out of international retirement by O’Neill in 2012. A century of caps has been frustrated by a run of unused substitute appearances but he has continued to travel from Australia without complaint and a taste of a first international tournament at the Euros would be a fitting reward for a distinguished servant.
Chris Baird
  • Club Derby County
  • Age 34
  • Caps 77
  • Goals 0
A regular since making his debut shortly after appearing in the 2003 FA Cup final for Southampton, Baird’s versatility has been a crutch for several Northern Ireland managers and earned the Ballymoney player 76 caps. Valued for his defensive midfield work under O’Neill.

N.Ireland forwards

Kyle Lafferty Maverick

  • Club Norwich City
  • Age 28
  • Caps 50
  • Goals 17
Read the riot act by O’Neill after a reckless red card against Portugal in 2013 heightened fears that a promising career was going off the rails. No-one can fault the response. Lafferty scored seven goals in qualifying, remarkable for a player overlooked at club level, to become a national hero. “The team and the country needs the Kyle Lafferty with the head screwed on, not the clown,” he admitted.

Jamie Ward

  • Club Nottingham Forest
  • Age 30
  • Caps 21
  • Goals 2
The Birmingham-born forward developed an effective right wing partnership with Conor McLaughlin during the qualifying campaign and has also impressed when deployed in attack by O’Neill, his work-rate and unselfishness helping others to shine.

Conor Washington Young talent

  • Club Queens Park Rangers
  • Age 24
  • Caps 3
  • Goals 2
A late addition to the squad with O’Neill requiring alternatives to Kyle Lafferty and seized his chance with a fine goal in the friendly defeat of Slovenia. Worked part-time as a postman while playing for non-league St Ives Town during the last European Championships. Qualified for Northern Ireland through his late Belfast-born grandmother, Pamela.
Will Grigg
  • Club Wigan Athletic
  • Age 24
  • Caps 8
  • Goals 1
Has made only seven senior appearances for Northern Ireland and did not feature at all during the qualifying campaign but is often an option for O’Neill from the bench.

Profiles written by Andy Hunter