McCourt pulls out

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Paddy McCourt has lost his fitness battle and pulled out of the Northern Ireland squad to face Italy and the Faroe Islands in Euro 2012 qualifiers.

McCourt was named in the original group last week despite having a shoulder problem.

Manager Nigel Worthington included the Celtic winger in the hope he might make it against Italy and unlock the door with his skill, but not only will McCourt skip that qualifier on Friday he is also ruled out the following one in Toftir a week on Tuesday.

It is the second withdrawal Worthington has had to make with Blackburn-born midfielder Adam Barton stepping down.

The 19-year-old said he wanted to keep his options open and also concentrate on his club career with Preston.

Andrew Little of Rangers has been drafted into the squad after dropping down to the national under-21 side last month.

Little, 21, who can play in defence or attack, is now set to win his seventh cap after being given a late reprieve by Worthington.

Northern Ireland are looking to build on an away victory against Slovenia in their opening qualifier when Italy visit Belfast.

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Blackburn Rovers
Preston North End

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