Northern Ireland: Gareth McAuley and Niall McGinn named in squad

NI skipper Gareth McAuley has scored three goals in the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign
NI skipper Gareth McAuley has scored three goals in the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign

Gareth McAuley and Niall McGinn have been named in the Northern Ireland squad to face Greece and Finland in the vital forthcoming Euro 2016 qualifiers despite injury concerns over the duo.

McAuley missed West Brom's 3-2 home defeat by Everton with a calf strain.

McGinn picked up a groin injury in Aberdeen's Scottish Premiership defeat by Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

Northern Ireland need one win or two draws from their final matches to ensure qualification for the finals.

The country's last appearance at a major finals came at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.

Striker Jamie Ward returns to the squad after missing the group leaders' games with the Faroe Islands and Hungary through injury.

Group F

The Nottingham Forest forward was forced to sit out the 3-1 win over the Faroes in Torshavn and the dramatic 1-1 home draw against Hungary with a hamstring complaint.

Conor McLaughlin, Chris Baird and Kyle Lafferty are all named despite being ruled out of the potentially decisive encounter with Greece at Windsor Park on Thursday 8 October by suspension.

Their absence opens up an opportunity for other players to impress, with Aaron Hughes and young Manchester United star Paddy McNair expected to fill the voids left by the absence of McLaughlin and Baird.

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O'Neill weighing up Northern Ireland striking options

Lafferty's unavailability will be keenly felt given his goalscoring heroics throughout the qualifying campaign, which has seen him contribute seven goals.

Billy McKay, who was called into the squad for those two matches as a replacement for the injured Ben Reeves, retains his place, but Sheffield Wednesday Caolan Lavery is not included.

Ryan McLaughlin, who is on loan from Liverpool to Aberdeen, is called up by manager Michael O'Neill for the Group F double-header.

O'Neill will be keen that McAuley, who has scored three goals during the campaign, and McGinn, will be ready to face the Greeks.

"They are a concern but Gareth will do everything possible to get on the pitch while with Niall, it's a bit more precautionary," said O'Neill.

"I have a lot to think about in the striking department. I have options in that players are starting for their clubs and scoring. Liam Boyce, Billy McKay and Josh Magennis are all scoring goals in the SPL while Jamie Ward in a more attacking role is another option."

Northern Ireland squad: Goalkeepers: Roy Carroll (Notts County), Michael McGovern (Hamilton Academicals), Alan Mannus (St Johnstone)

Defenders: Aaron Hughes (Melbourne City), Chris Baird (Derby County), Gareth McAuley (West Bromwich Albion), Jonny Evans (West Bromwich Albion), Craig Cathcart (Watford), Shane Ferguson (Newcastle Utd), Conor McLaughlin (Fleetwood Town), Paddy McNair (Manchester Utd), Lee Hodson (MK Dons)

Midfielders: Steve Davis (Southampton), Chris Brunt (West Bromwich Albion), Corry Evans (Blackburn Rovers), Oliver Norwood (Reading), Pat McCourt (Luton Town), Stuart Dallas (Leeds Utd), Ryan McLaughlin (Liverpool, on loan at Aberdeen)

Forwards: Kyle Lafferty (Norwich City), Josh Magennis (Kilmarnock), Will Grigg (Wigan Athletic), Niall McGinn (Aberdeen), Jamie Ward (Nottingham Forest), Billy McKay (Wigan Athletic, on loan at Dundee Utd), Liam Boyce (Ross County)