Oh brother, Fleetwood ace set for Northern Ireland double act
Fleetwood full-back Conor McLaughlin has been selected for Northern Ireland's summer internationals and could line up alongside brother Ryan this week.
Out-of-contract right-back Conor has been offered a fresh deal by Town but faces a double dose of international duty before his Highbury future is cleared up.
McLaughlin has picked up 22 caps and could earn two more after again being selected for Michael O’Neill’s 25-man squad for Friday’s friendly against New Zealand in Belfast and the crunch World Cup qualifier away to Azerbaijan on Saturday week.
Younger brother Ryan, of Oldham Athletic, could also line up in defence on Friday as West Brom’s Gareth McAuley and Watford’s Craig Cathcart are given more time to shake off knocks ahead of the Group C qualifier in Baku.
It would be the third time the brothers have featured in the same Northern Ireland team. However, it is three years since Ryan came off the bench to join Conor in a 1-0 defeat by Uruguay, then both started in Chile the following month, when the Irish lost 2-0.
O’Neill has called up extra defenders in Southend’s Adam Thompson and Burton Albion’s Tom Flanagan but Conor is expected to keep his starting place, having scored his first international goal in the reverse fixture against Azerbaijan, as Northern Ireland bid to retain their grip on second place behind world champions Germany.
McLaughlin is one of six out-of-contract players offered new contracts by Town. The others are Godswill Ekpolo, Nick Haughton, Victor Nirennold, Jimmy Ryan and David Ball, who was linked with Rotherham over the weekend.
Experienced midfielder Ryan, 28, spent most of the season sidelined with a foot injury sustained at Port Vale in November.
He finally returned to action this month in the development squad’s Lancashire Cup semi-final win over Blackburn Rovers but was not fit enough to feature in the play-off semi-final games against Bradford City.
Ryan is also yet to agree to a new deal as too is the final out of contract player, top scorer David Ball who has been linked to a move to recently relegated Rotherham over the weekend.