Michael O’Neill is confident jonny evans will be fit to lead North Ireland Despite his injury, they will continue their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign later this month. Leicester No defense since November.

Evans has been in O’Neill’s first Northern Ireland squad since returning to national duty in December, and the 35-year-old’s experience will play a key role in a group where the captain is missing. Steven DavisStuart Dallas, Corry Evans, Ali McCann and Shayne Lavery due to injuries.

But Evans, who won his 100th cap in Ian Baraclough’s last game in Greece, hasn’t played in Leicester since before the World Cup, has a calf injury and has recently suffered from a thigh strain.

“I spoke to Jonny and I think he’s doing really well,” said O’Neill, who will take his side in San Marino on March 23 before facing Finland at Windsor Park three days later.

“He had a slight setback, got a thigh strain and that put him a few weeks behind, but the medical team is back on the turf and if he doesn’t they are hoping he can play in an under-21 game.” this week, definitely before the international break.

“Obviously he is very keen to come back to Leicester, that is his priority but equally a player with over 100 shirts, he is very keen to extend his international career as much as possible and I hope he will be ready to play.”

Evans was part of a group that also included Craig Cathcart and Shane Ferguson, who were in O’Neill’s first Northern Ireland squad in 2012.

But while these two were considered loyal, O’Neill had to bring in four players who did not play in the 26-man junior group for his return due to the significant number of injuries he dealt with.

Davis, 38, suffered a double ACL tear in December, smashing hopes that Dallas, whose leg was broken last season, could be back in time for this window.

With Corry Evans and McCann absent, O’Neill does not have four midfielders and therefore has called on Everton’s Isaac Price, Motherwell’s Sean Goss and Ostend midfielder Cameron McGeehan. Bolton defender Eoin Toal is the fourth new face.

Goss and McGeehan are 27 and received senior calls during O’Neill’s first stint in 2018, but both had to withdraw due to injury. Price, 19, made his Premier League debut for Everton last season, while Toal, 24, is a former under-21 captain.

With the likes of Shea Charles and Dale Taylor included, there’s definitely a younger feel to this cast.

“I definitely feel that veteran players are excited about the campaign, and that’s important because they use everything,” O’Neill said. “The unavailability of the players, especially Stuart, Steven and Corry with longer injuries, is a huge blow.

“For now, we have to find that excitement without these players. Young players also need to bring some vitality and some energy to the group. We can’t always depend on the senior players on the team.”

there is no place for kyle laffertyThe 35-year-old was sent home from the last camp after a video emerged of him using sectarian language in a bar and later apologizing for it.

The incident resulted in Lafferty being suspended by Kilmarnock and later released at the end of the transfer window. He has since returned to Northern Ireland with Linfield, but has yet to score for his new club.

“He’s looking for form and fitness and I don’t think international football would be the right thing for him right now,” O’Neill said. “The door was not closed, it was not closed on anyone. Responsibility for form and condition belongs to the player.”