Hughes and McGivern out of Northern Ireland squad

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HIBERNIAN’S Ryan McGivern and Fulham’s Aaron Hughes have been ruled out of Northern Ireland’s World Cup qualifying double-header against Portugal and Luxembourg.

Manager Michael O’Neill said earlier this week that the defensive pair were struggling with groin and knee injuries respectively and his fears were confirmed by further assessment.

If fit, both were expected to start against Portugal at Windsor Park tonight, McGivern deputising for the suspended Daniel Lafferty at left-back.

With Craig Cathcart already missing with a knee problem of his own, O’Neill has summoned Chris Baird and former Aberdeen player Rory McArdle as cover.

Baird, vastly experienced at international level, had not initially been considered due to being unattached. He has been training with QPR since his release by Fulham at the end of last season.

Bradford centre-back McArdle, meanwhile, offers additional cover for Jonny Evans and Gareth McAuley.