Four senior players ruled out for Northern Ireland’s friendly with South Korea

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Northern Ireland have been hit by the withdrawal of four senior players including captain Steven Davis for Saturday’s friendly with South Korea.

Midfielder Davis will not add to his 101-cap haul having remained with Southampton due to a hamstring injury that has forced him to miss the Premier League club’s last five contests.

Davis was pictured in training with Southampton earlier this week so could be back for Mark Hughes’ first Premier League game in charge at West Ham after the international break.

Northern Irish boss Michael O’Neill’s initial 24-man squad has been reduced to 20 players after Kyle Laffety, Niall McGinn and Stuart Dallas all pulled out with injuries too.

Hearts striker Lafferty and Leeds midfielder Dallas have thigh problems while Aberdeen winger McGinn is struggling with a groin issue. All three players have left Northern Ireland to return to their club sides for treatment.

It means boss O’Neill could turn to the Northern Irish Under-21s to swell his squad for the game with South Korea as the youngsters have home fixtures with Spain and Iceland on Thursday and Monday.

However, O’Neill is unsure if he would actually select any of Ian Baraclough’s players to feature given the seniors’ game is sandwiched between two huge qualifiers in the Under-21s’ bid to reach Euro 2019.

Explaining his injury situation, O’Neill said: “We have to be careful with the players given the time of year it is and the nature of the game.

“The game will provide an opportunity for some of those players like Jordan Jones and Jamal Lewis and one or two others.

“The Under-21s play on Thursday so there is always the opportunity to add one or two of those players from that squad into the senior game as well.

“We’re not high on numbers. There are one or two we hoped would have been with us but unfortunately they are not.

“If an Under-21 player or players come in, it won’t just be for the experience. It will be because we believe they can contribute as well. They also have a game on Monday so we also have to balance that.

“We’ll see how the Spain games goes first before we see how we balance that situation but there is a good chance one or two of the Under-21s will be in the squad, whether that’s just on the bench or not. Potential game time is hard to say at the minute, though.”

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