Caolan Lavery could be spending part of his summer break from league action taking on world class stars like Liverpool’s Luis Suarez and Paris Saint-Germain’s Edinson Cavani after Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill revealed the Sheffield Wednesday forward is in the frame for a full international call-up.
O’Neill’s side will face Uruguay in Montevideo on May 30 with the South Americans using the match to test themselves against a ‘British style of play’ having been drawn alongside England in the World Cup finals group stages.
After taking on Suarez and co. Northern Ireland will face another Brazil-bound side, Chile in Valparaiso on June 4, as part of a two-game South American tour which O’Neill is using as preparation for the upcoming Euro 2016 qualifying campaign.
Canada-born Lavery, who switched alliegence to Northern Ireland where both his parents were born, has already earned under 19 and under 21 caps and is seen as a potential long-term goalscoring hope to a country who have struggled to consistently find the net since now-retired David Healy’s remarkable run helped them beat the likes of England, Spain and Sweden among others over eight years ago.
Back in Belfast there have been noises made about the possible call-ups of Northern Ireland Football League pair Joe Gormley and Liam Boyce, who have scored over 60 goals between them for their club, Cliftonville on the way to a title success.
However, with Lavery performing and impressing at a much higher level in the Championship with Wednesday, it would appear more likely that he will feature in the squad for the South American double header.
Former Wigan and Coventry midfielder O’Neill admitted that younger players plying their trade in England and Scotland could make their competitive breakthrough in the European Championship qualifiers, which kick off for Northern Ireland away to Hungary in September.
And this mini-tour gives the manager the opportunity to potentially help the likes of Lavery settle into the senior squad.
“Boyce and Gormley are players I am thinking about but what I have to decide is would it be more beneficial to call up a young player in England like Caolan Lavery,” said O’Neill whose side also face Greece, Finland, Romania and Faroe Islands in qualifying.
“He has been doing very well for Sheffield Wednesday in the past few months and is playing at a higher level of football.
“It is a balancing act. There will be younger players currently not in the squad who may be called upon during the Euro 2016 qualifiers and it might be best to introduce them to the squad in a scenario like the tour.
“We have watched Caolan this season and have been very impressed so he is very much in our plans.
“When players come in for a few days, like Ben Reeves (MK Dons) and Paul Paton (Dundee United) before the Cyprus game, they don’t get time to get to know the rest of the lads but the games in South America will be completely different.”
Lavery has hit four goals for Wednesday this season - including a memorable double coming off the bench in the 6-0 hammering of Leeds at Hillsborough in March - having been brought into first team contention by Start Gray after finding the net three times during a successful loan spell at Plymouth.