McAuley in danger of Ireland axe

GARETH McAuley is in danger of being dropped for Northern Ireland's World Cup qualifier against Slovakia tomorrow.The Ipswich Town skipper is under pressure from Manchester United's Johnny Evans and Aaron Hughes to partner Stephen Craigan at centre-half.

Derek Davis

GARETH McAuley is in danger of being dropped for Northern Ireland's World Cup qualifier against Slovakia tomorrow.

The Ipswich Town skipper is under pressure from Manchester United's Johnny Evans and Aaron Hughes to partner Stephen Craigan at centre-half.

The Ulsterman's performances for Town have been noted by Irish boss Nigel Worthington who has hinted McAuley could slip down the pecking order.


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Evans and Hughes have come back from injury to strengthen the Irish squad looking to build on performances in the European championship qualifiers.

McAuley said: “We are in a very tough group once more but so it was last time and we beat the European champions Spain so we have to believe we can get results again.

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“We are especially strong in Belfast. Windsor Park may only hold about 16,000 but they create a noise and an atmosphere, especially in night games, that totally lift us and we know we can win at home.

“If we can pick up results away, like Slovakia, then that could determine the group.

“It is a tough group with the Czech Republic and Slovakia too but they are not Spain so we can be confident.”

McAuley admits getting away from the stresses of the Championship is a bonus.

He said: “I love playing for my country and feel very honoured to do so.

“The international break gives us a good opportunity to experience a different style of football and get together with the lads.”

McAuley has backed Under 21 international Chris Casement to push for a place in the senior squad now he has been sent on loan to Hamilton Academicals.

The 20-year-old defender is included in the young Irish squad facing Germany's Under-21s in Wuppertal needing to win to qualify from their group, with Israel also in contention.

The Belfast boy, who often rooms with McAuley while on Ipswich duty, has impressed the senior international while playing at both right back and centre half for club and country.

McAuley said: “Chris has done well but needs to progress. Going out on loan and playing regular football is exactly to sort of experience he needs.

“From what I have seen Chris has done very well but is still learning all the time.

“If he can use the experience on loan and get regular games he can only get better and from there he can push on, both with Ipswich and the senior squad, but he knows he has a way to go yet.”

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