Aaron Hughes returns to Northern Ireland squad

 

Michael O'Neill named his first Northern Ireland squad this morning, with former captain Aaron Hughes the standout name in a party of 24 having been persuaded to reverse his retirement.

O'Neill takes charge of the side for the first time on February 29 when Norway visit Windsor Park and he will have Fulham centre-back Hughes at his disposal less than six months after he announced his decision to end his international career at the end of the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign.

Also back after a lengthy absences are Burnley defender Michael Duff, who last featured in 2008, and Kilmarnock midfielder Dean Shiels.

Hughes' Fulham team-mate Chris Baird, a veteran of 56 caps, was not in the squad, but his club confirmed he was in training as normal.

As expected goalkeeper Maik Taylor, who captained against Italy in Nigel Worthington's last game in charge, has been left out in favour of Lee Camp, Alan Mannus and Michael McGovern, but the 40-year-old has no plans to announce his retirement and will remain available if required.

Wolves' 19-year-old midfielder Johnny Gorman, a regular squad member under Worthington, misses out as does Andrew Little of Rangers.

Elsewhere, O'Neill has opted against handing senior calls to Rory Donnelly, who moved from Cliftonville to Swansea earlier this season, and Daniel Lafferty, who made the move from Derry City to Burnley in January.

There are no uncapped players in O'Neill's squad but McGovern, Jamie Ward and Shane Ferguson - the Newcastle defender once thought to be considering switching his allegiance to the Republic of Ireland - have each played just once.

Ipswich midfielder Josh Carson, meanwhile, has been promoted from the Under-21s and will be looking for a third cap.

PA

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