Northern Ireland Under-21 call-up for Hartlepool defender

Liam Donnelly.
Liam Donnelly.

Liam Donnelly has been called-up for Northern Ireland Under-21's forthcoming European qualifiers against Spain and Iceland.

The Hartlepool United defender, who has recently turned 22, has 18 caps for the Under-21 side and will join up with the national team for the next round of international fixtures.

The U21s take on Spain at Shamrock Park in Portadown (7.45pm) on Thursday, March 22 and Iceland at The Showgrounds in Coleraine (7.30pm) on Monday, March 26.

Donnelly could miss two games for Pools.

Pools face Barrow away in the rearranged National League fixture next Wednesday, March 21 and Bromley at home on Saturday, March 24 though the Bromley game could yet be rearranged should they progress in the FA Trophy.

Under-21 boss Ian Baraclough said: "We will definitely need to be at our best for these two games against quality opposition.

"Spain were narrowly beaten by Germany in the final of this competition last year and have players with significant La Liga experience with some of the leading Spanish clubs.

"It’s a test we will relish, however, as we fight to stay in contention at the top of Group 2.

"Iceland will bring a different challenge to us as I feel they will be a big, strong and physical side."

Northern Ireland currently lie second in the table behind group favourites Spain while Iceland are in third.

Nine group winners will qualify for the finals in Italy and San Marino next year, while the four best runners-up will qualify for play-offs this autumn and the two winners of the play-offs will in turn qualify for the final tournament alongside hosts Italy.