McIlroy ready to blood Sunderland youngster

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The Independent Football

Sammy McIlroy is predicting a bright future with Northern Ireland for the Sunderland youngster, George McCartney, who is set to make his debut against Iceland tonight.

McIlroy is handing McCartney his first cap at Windsor Park, even though he admits it is sooner than he had planned. McCartney gets his chance at centre-half because of Colin Murdock's one-match ban.

McIlroy has closely followed McCartney's progress with Sunderland and the Northern Ireland Under-21s over the last 18 months and is convinced the 20-year-old will make a big impact.

"I've been talking about this lad ever since I took the job," he said. "His temperament is first class. He's had experience, even though it's not a lot of experience, with Sunderland.

"I've been dying to give the boy his debut... he has been busting a gut to play and he says it's one of his dreams to play for Northern Ireland. This is a great opportunity for him and I'm sure he will be OK."

McCartney for Murdock is likely to be the only change McIlroy makes to the side which earned a fine 1-1 draw with Denmark in Copenhagen.

Northern Ireland (probable, 4-5-1): Taylor; Kennedy, McCartney, A Hughes, Griffin; Horlock, M Hughes, Magilton, Mulryne, Gillespie; Healy.

Iceland (probable, 4-3-3): Arason; Hreidarsson, Helgason, Vidarsson, Sverrisson; Gretarsson, Marteinsson, Gudjonsson; Sigthorsson, Sigurdsson, Gudjohnsen.