Hartlepool United boss Craig Harrison has empathy for Liam Donnelly’s situation

Hartlepool United's Liam Donnelly.
Hartlepool United's Liam Donnelly.

Craig Harrison has expressed his sympathy with Liam Donnelly over his international situation.

It’s not that the Hartlepool United defender has encountered any set-backs with Northern Ireland.

Far from it, the 21-year-old is in fantastic form for his proud footballing nation, including scoring the winner in their European U21 Championship qualifier with Albania at the end of last month.

But his efforts for Queen and country are interrupting his duties at Victoria Park, as Harrison, wearing his Pools hat, has explained.

Donnelly is almost certain to start this afternoon’s visit to Woking, lining up alongside Louis Laing as the combination deputise for Keith Watson and Michael Ledger.

But he will then will miss the National League matches at home to Barrow on Tuesday night and the visit to Solihull Moors next Saturday.

The versatile Dungannon-born player will lead Northern Ireland against Slovakia on Tuesday, October 10.

“Liam has been in and out of the side because of international duty,” said Harrison.

“He was our best defender before he went away with Northern Ireland.

“But when he came back the team had won and he’s not been in the starting XI since, which is understandable.

“Unfortunately, he’s away again on Monday and will miss the Barrow and Solihull games.

“It’s not great for the team and for the lad too - Liam’s head must be battered.

“Coming in, going out and now he’ll have to wait for his opportunity again.

“I don’t want to get involved in any issues with international managers, it’s a tough job, but Liam’s going away at a time when Keith, Ledge and Scotty have all been struggling with injuries.”

Scott Harrison has returned to fitness, but Watson (knee) faces a lengthy spell out while Ledger (back) is a major doubt.

Laing and Donnelly, despite not having played together, performed well as Craig Harrison pointed out.

“Laingy and Liam did really well,” he said.

“Eastleigh (last weekend) didn’t create anything or much in open play as shown by the fact Scott Loach has only had one save to make.”