Accrington Stanley striker Dion Charles has been called up to the Northern Ireland squad for the first time ahead of their upcoming World Cup qualifiers.
Charles, 25, is having a superb season with League One Accrington, scoring 17 goals in 38 appearances so far this term.
Paddy McNair has been included by manager Ian Barraclough in the 26-strong squad, despite being forced off with a knee problem in Middlesbrough’s win over Preston on Tuesday night.
Northern Ireland begin their qualifying campaign away to Italy in Parma on March 25, live on Sky Sports, before facing Bulgaria at Windsor Park on March 31, with a friendly at home to the United States in between.
There is also a first senior call-up for Derry City goalkeeper Nathan Gartside who joins number one Bailey Peacock-Farrell and Conor Hazard in the squad, with both Michael McGovern and Trevor Carson out injured.
Blackburn’s Corry Evans is back in the squad after being hampered by injuries, joined by his brother Jonny, with the Leicester defender having overcome a calf problem.
Liam Boyce is included in the squad, though may not join up with his team-mates immediately as he awaits the birth of his second child.
However, Sunderland loanee Jordan Jones misses out with injury.
Ethan Galbraith, Tom Flanagan and Ryan McLaughlin are also all absent.
Northern Ireland’s World Cup qualifying group also includes Switzerland and Lithuania.
Baraclough’s team finished bottom of last year’s Nations League campaign, drawing two and losing four of their six fixtures.
They also lost out to Slovakia in their Euro 2020 play-off final last November.
Northern Ireland’s full squad
Goalkeepers – Bailey Peacock-Farrell (Burnley), Conor Hazard (Celtic), Nathan Gartside (Derry City).
Defenders – Jonathan Evans (Leicester City), Craig Cathcart (Watford), Stuart Dallas (Leeds United), Shane Ferguson (Millwall), Patrick McNair (Middlesbrough), Conor McLaughlin (Sunderland), Jamal Lewis (Newcastle United), Daniel Ballard (Blackpool – on loan from Arsenal), Ciaron Brown (Cardiff City).
Midfielders – Steven Davis (Rangers), Corry Evans (Blackburn Rovers), George Saville (Middlesbrough), Michael Smith (Heart of Midlothian), Matthew Kennedy (Aberdeen), Jordan Thompson (Stoke City), Niall McGinn (Aberdeen), Alistair McCann (St Johnstone).
Forwards – Kyle Lafferty (Kilmarnock), Josh Magennis (Hull City), Conor Washington (Charlton Athletic), Liam Boyce (Hearts), Gavin Whyte (Hull City – on loan from Cardiff City), Dion Charles (Accrington Stanley)
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