Northern Ireland Under-21s manager John Schofield has made several changes to his squad for the upcoming Euro qualifiers against Spain (home) and Lithuania (away).
Schofield’s team will bring their U21 Euro 2023 Group C qualification campaign to a close with a game against high flying Spain at Inver Park in Larne on Friday (1pm start) and an away fixture versus Lithuania in Alytus next Tuesday (6pm start UK time).
Spain have already qualified for next year’s U21 Euro finals in Georgia and Romania after winning all six of their group games to date, including a 3-0 win over Northern Ireland in Seville back in October.
However, they are still expected to bring a strong squad to Larne later this week. It will feature several players who ply their trade in La Liga.
Northern Ireland, who have six points (two wins, four defeats) in the group so far, thumped Lithuania 4-0 at Ballymena Showgrounds in November - it was arguably their best performance of the campaign - and they will be hoping to end their Group C qualifying series on a high with a positive result in Alytus.
Schofield’s latest squad shows eight changes from the panel involved in the 2-1 Euro qualifier defeat to Slovakia, and the 5-0 defeat to France in a friendly, back in March.
Returning to the U21 fold are Manchester United keeper Dermot Mee, who was part of the senior squad training camp in England earlier this month, and Linfield goalkeeper David Walsh.
Newcomers include Bournemouth midfielder Marcus Daws, who is new to the Northern Ireland set-up.
Leeds United midfielder Charlie Allen, who also trained with the seniors earlier this month, and Charlton Athletic midfielder Euan Williams have been elevated from the U19s for the first time, too.
Ards midfielder/striker Calvin McCurry returns after missing out last time through injury, while Fleetwood Town midfielder Dylan Boyle is back as well.
Rangers striker Ross McCausland, Rotherham United forward Ciaran McGuckin and Dungannon Swifts midfielder Terry Devlin all retain their places in the panel having stepped up from the U19s for the games in March against Slovakia and France.
Three of the players from the springtime games have moved up to the senior panel for their four UEFA Nations League games in June. They are Leeds United midfielder Alfie McCalmont, Manchester City midfielder Shea Charles and Rangers midfielder Charlie McCann.
The U21s boss explained a handful of players are missing out this time due to injury. “Obviously that is disappointing for them, however it gives opportunities to other players,” he said.
Not included this time are Norwich City goalkeeper Dylan Berry and Portsmouth keeper Ollie Webber, Everton midfielder Isaac Price, Fleetwood Town defender Carl Johnston and Bradford City defender Finn Cousin-Dawson.
The Northern Ireland U21 squad for the Euro qualifiers against Spain and Lithuania is as follows:
Goalkeepers: Dermot Mee (Manchester United), David Walsh (Linfield).
Defenders: Aaron Donnelly (Nottingham Forest), Jack Scott (St Patrick’s Athletic, on loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers), Sam McClelland (Chelsea), Kofi Balmer (Larne), Oisin Smyth (Oxford United), Sean Stewart (Norwich City).
Midfielders: Ethan Galbraith (Manchester United), Terry Devlin (Dungannon Swifts), Dylan Boyle (Fleetwood Town), Charlie Allen (Leeds United), Calvin McCurry (Ards), Marcus Daws (Bournemouth), Euan Williams (Charlton Athletic).
Forwards: Barry Baggley (Fleetwood Town), Chris McKee (Linfield), Dale Taylor (Nottingham Forest), Ross McCausland (Rangers), John McGovern (Newry City), Ciaran McGuckin (Rotherham United).