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Caolan Lavery earns maiden Northern Ireland call-up, Liam Boyce returns

Highly-rated Sheffield Wednesday striker Caolan Lavery has received his maiden international call-up to Michael O’Neill’s Northern Ireland squad for the friendly encounter against 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar and the Euro 2016 qualifying clash with Group F rivals Romania (11/4 with Coral to win group).

The 22-year-old’s season looked to have been finished; after impressing for the Owls later in the Championship campaign, as they finished in 13th position, but the in-form forward will now feature as part of his country’s senior set-up for the first time this year.

Having already been capped at Under-19 and Under-21 level for Northern Ireland, Lavery will now be turning his attention to winning a first senior appearance under O’Neill in the upcoming friendly meeting with Qatar at Crewe’s Gresty Road on May 31.

The promising poacher started all of the Owls’ final seven second tier matches, after an encouraging loan spell at Chesterfield, having come off the bench to strike his side’s winner in a dramatic 3-2 triumph over Rotherham United and was also on target against Charlton Athletic.

Meanwhile, Ross County attacker Liam Boyce has made a return to the international squad, after the former Cliftonville forward rediscovered his form in front of goal in Scotland.

The 24-year-old clinched the winning strike five minutes from time against Hamilton recently to secure his club’s Scottish Premiership safety, and was then named as the Fans’ Player of the Year.

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After colliding with Qatar at the end of this month, O’Neill’s side will entertain the Romanians at Windsor Park in a vital Euro 2016 qualifier on June 13, with the Group F high-flyers aiming to overtake their opposition at the summit of their qualifying table.

The second-placed outfit currently hold 12 points, just a single point adrift of their next qualifying challengers, and a victory over Anghel Iordanescu’s table toppers would put them in a dominant position to secure their place at next summer’s international competition in France.

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O’Neill’s gallant outfit have been in fine form in qualifying, having secured four victories form their opening five matches, and they are now odds-on 1/8 to secure qualification.

Full 28-man Northern Ireland squad

Goalkeepers: Roy Carroll (Notts County), Michael McGovern (Hamilton Academicals), Trevor Carson (Cheltenham Town)

Defenders: Aaron Hughes (Unattached), Chris Baird, Gareth McAuley (both West Bromwich Albion), Jonny Evans (Manchester United), Craig Cathcart (Watford), Shane Ferguson (Newcastle United), Daniel Lafferty (Burnley), Conor McLaughlin (Fleetwood Town), Luke McCullough (Doncaster Rovers), Paddy McNair (Manchester United)

Midfielders: Steve Davis (Southampton), Chris Brunt (West Bromwich Albion), Corry Evans (Blackburn Rovers), Oliver Norwood (Reading), Pat McCourt (Unattached), Ben Reeves (MK Dons), Stuart Dallas (Brentford)

Forwards: Kyle Lafferty (Norwich City), Josh Magennis (Kilmarnock), Billy McKay (Wigan Athletic), Will Grigg (Brentford), Niall McGinn (Aberdeen), Jamie Ward (Unattached), Liam Boyce (Ross County), Caolan Lavery (Sheffield Wednesday)