Lyons was a pivotal figure in Kilmarnock’s recent Viaplay Cup triumph over Celtic on August 20.
For the first time ever, Kilmarnock’s standout midfielder Brad Lyons has snagged a spot in Northern Ireland’s wounded lineup for the Euro 2024 qualifying matches against Slovenia and Kazakhstan set for next month.
Making their return to the squad are once-injured forwards Josh Magennis and Conor Washington, along with defender Daniel Ballard.
However, the squad is far from full-strength, as Northern Ireland’s head honcho Michael O’Neill has to grapple with a slew of injuries to key players.
Steven Davis, Corry Evans, Stuart Dallas, and Shane Ferguson are among the long-haul absentees. In addition, Jamal Lewis, Conor Bradley, and Aaron Donnelly are also off the roster.
Bradley, a Liverpool wing-back, and Donnelly, a Nottingham Forest defender, were active in the previous squad. Meanwhile, Lewis, who recently inked a loan deal with Watford from Newcastle, withdrew from the team prior to the Denmark match in June.
Also sitting on the sidelines are Leyton Orient’s Ethan Galbraith, Larne’s Lee Bonis, West Ham’s Callum Marshall, free-agent Sean Goss, and Portsmouth’s Paddy Lane.
Northern Ireland, with just three points from four qualifiers, aims to boost their chances of making it to next summer’s Euro event with upcoming matches against Slovenia on September 7 and Kazakhstan on September 10.
Experience Returns, But Challenges Remain
Talking to Sport News Center Northern Ireland, O’Neill expressed relief at the return of seasoned players like Magennis, 33, and Washington, 31, who were sorely missed in losses against Denmark and Kazakhstan this past June.
“It’s encouraging to have veterans like Josh Magennis and Conor Washington back in the mix,” O’Neill shared. He returned for a second managerial stint last December. “The squad lacked attacking experience in June, so their return is a welcome boost.”
Despite welcoming fresh talent, the squad is still missing half a dozen key players. “We’re introducing new blood like Brad Lyons, but the absence of Bradley and Lewis, among others, still hurts us,” he admitted.
While Davis, Dallas, and Evans are out for the upcoming matches, O’Neill can’t put all his chips on their return before the qualifying rounds conclude in November. Davis and Evans have been absent due to anterior cruciate ligament injuries, and Dallas has been recovering from a fractured femur since April 2022.
“We’re running out of matches, but Stuart’s recovery is promising,” O’Neill said. “Steven underwent a minor knee procedure, and Corry is looking at a December return. We can’t bank on them for this campaign, though.”
Rising Stars and Veteran Returnees
Lyons, 26, hasn’t represented Northern Ireland at any level but his performance with Kilmarnock has turned heads. Scoring the decisive goal against Rangers earlier this season and making an impact in the Viaplay Cup, Lyons seems ready for bigger stages.
O’Neill praised Lyons’ gameplay, saying, “He’s been fiercely competitive in recent matches against Rangers, Celtic, and even Hearts. Lyons has upped his game and cemented his place in Kilmarnock’s lineup.”
Lyons isn’t the only novel addition. Returning to the squad is Paul Smyth from QPR, who recently played a crucial part in Leyton Orient’s League Two-winning 2022-23 season.
Unaffiliated defenders Jonny Evans and Craig Cathcart have also been named. Evans, 35, stayed fit during Manchester United’s pre-season, while Cathcart, capped 72 times, is currently a free agent after a near-decade with Watford.
The Lineup for Euro 2024 Qualifiers Against Slovenia and Kazakhstan
Goalkeepers: Bailey Peacock-Farrell (Aarhus, on loan from Burnley), Conor Hazard (Plymouth Argyle), Luke Southwood (Cheltenham Town).
Defenders: Jonny Evans (unattached), Craig Cathcart (unattached), Paddy McNair (Middlesbrough), Daniel Ballard (Sunderland), Ciaron Brown (Oxford United), Trai Hume (Sunderland).
Midfielders: George Saville (Millwall), Gavin Whyte (Portsmouth), Jordan Thompson (Stoke City), Ali McCann (Preston North End), Shea Charles (Southampton), Conor McMenamin (St Mirren), Isaac Price (Standard Liege), Paul Smyth (Queens Park Rangers), Matthew Kennedy (Kilmarnock), Brad Lyons (Kilmarnock).
Forwards: Josh Magennis (Wigan Athletic), Conor Washington (Derby County), Shayne Lavery (Blackpool), Dion Charles (Bolton Wanderers), Dale Taylor (Wycombe Wanderers, on loan from Nottingham Forest).
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Euro 2024 qualifiers
Who is the newest addition to Northern Ireland’s soccer squad for the Euro 2024 qualifiers?
The newest addition is Kilmarnock midfielder Brad Lyons. This is his first time being called up to the Northern Ireland squad.
Which players are making a return to the Northern Ireland squad?
Josh Magennis, Conor Washington, and Daniel Ballard are making their return after dealing with injuries. Paul Smyth is also returning to the squad, having not been capped since 2021.
Who are the significant absentees from the squad due to injury?
Steven Davis, Corry Evans, Stuart Dallas, and Shane Ferguson are among the long-term absentees. Jamal Lewis, Conor Bradley, and Aaron Donnelly are also unavailable due to injuries.
What are the upcoming matches for Northern Ireland?
Northern Ireland will be playing Euro 2024 qualifying matches against Slovenia on September 7 and Kazakhstan on September 10.
What did Michael O’Neill say about the team’s current state?
O’Neill expressed relief at having some of the seasoned players back but acknowledged the challenge of missing several key players due to injuries. He emphasized that while they’re introducing new talent like Brad Lyons, the absence of long-term injured players still hampers the squad.
Are there any players in the squad who are currently unattached to any club?
Yes, Jonny Evans and Craig Cathcart are both currently unattached. Evans has been keeping fit through Manchester United’s pre-season, while Cathcart is looking for a new club after ending his nine-year stint at Watford.
What has Brad Lyons achieved to earn his first call-up?
Brad Lyons has been in impressive form with Kilmarnock. He scored the winning goal against Rangers in the opening league match of the season and was pivotal in Kilmarnock’s Viaplay Cup win over Celtic.
What are the long-term injuries that key players like Steven Davis and Corry Evans are dealing with?
Steven Davis and Corry Evans are both dealing with anterior cruciate ligament injuries. Stuart Dallas, another key player, has been out since April 2022 with a fractured femur.
What are Northern Ireland’s prospects in the Euro 2024 qualifiers based on current form?
With just three points from their opening four qualifiers, Northern Ireland faces an uphill battle. However, the return of experienced players and the inclusion of fresh talent like Brad Lyons could provide a much-needed boost.
Who are the goalkeepers named for the Euro 2024 qualifiers?
The goalkeepers named for the qualifiers are Bailey Peacock-Farrell, who is on loan at Aarhus from Burnley, Conor Hazard from Plymouth Argyle, and Luke Southwood from Cheltenham Town.
More about Euro 2024 qualifiers
- Northern Ireland’s Official Soccer Website
- Kilmarnock FC’s Player Profiles: Brad Lyons
- UEFA Euro 2024 Qualifiers Schedule
- Injury Updates on Key Northern Ireland Players
- Michael O’Neill’s Coaching Career
- Viaplay Cup 2023 Highlights
- Interview with Josh Magennis and Conor Washington
- Paul Smyth’s Career Stats
- Jonny Evans and Craig Cathcart: Free Agents in Focus
- Previous Euro Qualifiers: Northern Ireland’s Performance