Northern Ireland: Gareth McAuley & Conor Washington out of Nations League squad

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Davis and Evans playing time a concern - O'Neill

Gareth McAuley and Conor Washington are absent from a 25-man Northern Ireland squad for this month's Uefa Nations League double header against Austria and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

McAuley has not played for new club Rangers, while Washington asked to miss the games for personal reasons.

Sunderland's Tom Flanagan is recalled while fellow defender Aaron Hughes returns to the squad after injury.

NI face Austria in Vienna on 12 October and Bosnia in Sarajevo on 15 October.

Bosnia-Herzegovina head Group B2 of the inaugural Nations League after beating Northern Ireland 2-1 and then defeating Austria 1-0.

McAuley joined up with manager Michael O'Neill's group for the game against Bosnia in Belfast on 8 September but was not included in the matchday squad and then returned to his club before the 3-0 friendly win over Israel at Windsor Park three days later.

"I spoke to Rangers and we decided it was in Gareth's best interests not to be with us for this trip. Fitness wise he's not where he should be and he hasn't played a game since Costa Rica at the start of June," said O'Neill.

Gareth McAuley trained with Northern Ireland ahead of their game with Bosnia and Herzegovina but was not included in the matchday squad
Gareth McAuley trained with Northern Ireland ahead of their game with Bosnia and Herzegovina but was not included in the matchday squad

Hearts defender Hughes was included in the initial squad for the two September games but pulled out through injury.

Washington has scored three international goals and made nine appearances for Sheffield United in the Championship this season without finding the net following his summer move from Queen's Park Rangers.

Liam Boyce, Kyle Lafferty, Josh Magennis and Will Grigg, who are all named in the squad, have been in better goalscoring form this season.

"Conor has a few personal issues and didn't feel it was in his best interests to be away for nine to 10 days and I agreed to that," explained the NI boss.

"I'd much prefer he was with the squad but sometimes players have their own reasons outside football that mean they can't be selected.

"Our other strikers are all scoring for their clubs and have had good starts to their seasons. Hopefully we see their goalscoring form with their clubs on the international stage."

NI last scored for NI in a World Cup qualifier against Norway in March 2017
Conor Washington last scored for NI in a World Cup qualifier against Norway in March 2017

Flanagan won the only senior cap of his career so far in a 1-0 friendly win over New Zealand in June 2017.

Oxford United winger Gavin Whyte retains his place in the squad after making a dramatic debut against Israel, scoring with his first touch just 106 seconds after being introduced as a substitute.

Whyte was a late addition to O'Neill's last squad after showing impressive early season from for his club, scoring three goals.

Northern Ireland squad

Goalkeepers: Michael McGovern (Norwich), Trevor Carson (Motherwell), Bailey Peacock-Farrell (Leeds).

Defenders: Craig Cathcart (Watford), Jonny Evans (Leicester), Aaron Hughes (Hearts), Tom Flanagan (Sunderland), Conor McLaughlin (Millwall), Paddy McNair (Middlesbrough), Michael Smith (Hearts), Jamal Lewis (Norwich).

Midfielders: Steven Davis (Southampton), Niall McGinn (Aberdeen), Stuart Dallas (Leeds), Corry Evans (Blackburn), Shane Ferguson (Millwall), George Saville (Middlesbrough), Jordan Jones (Kilmarnock), Oliver Norwood (Brighton, on loan at Sheffield United), Gavin Whyte (Oxford United).

Forwards: Kyle Lafferty (Rangers), Liam Boyce (Burton), Josh Magennis (Bolton), Will Grigg (Wigan), Jamie Ward (Nottingham Forest, on loan at Charlton).