Sunderland man misses international fixture with minor thigh injury ahead of Stoke City clash

Dan Ballard didn't feature for Northern Ireland last night ahead of Sunderland's game against Stoke City on Saturday.
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Sunderland defender Dan Ballard was left out of the Northern Ireland team that lost 1-0 at home to Slovenia on Tuesday evening.

Ballard was handed the captain's armband for Northern Ireland by Manchester United man and one-time Black Cats loanee Jonny Evans on Saturday evening during the 3-0 win against San Marino.

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The pair started in central defence together for Northern Ireland's clash against San Marino with Evans, 35, winning his 104th cap and Ballard, 24, winning his 15th.

Sunderland man Ballard played the entire 90 minutes of the clash alongside Black Cats colleague Trai Hume and former Wearsider Paddy McNair, who now plays for Middlesbrough.

However, Northern Ireland coach O'Neill stated that Ballard awoke with a tightness in his thigh, which is being monitored by their staff, but caused the defender to miss the following game against Slovenia in Group H of the Euro 2024 qualifying group.

"He [Ballard] woke up with a tightness in his thigh which we have just had to manage over the last 48 hours," O'Neill explained ahead of the game.

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"It's not like he was playing through something because obviously, we could have taken him off, but he didn't alert us to anything. It is just something that has come on post-game."

He added: "I think we have enough cover in our group. We have Eoin Toal, Trai Hume has played centre-half at his club and Shea Charles has played as centre-back as well.

"I think we have enough in the squad without calling anyone up. I think what we might look to do is add someone from the Under-21 squad if Daniel doesn't make it."

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