Cooper graduates to NI squad after Oxford teammate Sykes opts for Republic

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Joel joined Oxford last month.

Q Radio Sport

Oxford winger Joel Cooper has earned his maiden Northern Ireland call-up as part of Ian Baraclough's first squad since becoming manager. 

The 24-year-old winger has represented the U21s five times but could now make his senior debut away to Romania on September 4 or at home to Norway three days later as Northern Ireland begin their Nations League campaign.

Cooper moved to Oxford from Linfield last month. 

He is joined in the NI squad by Corry Evans after the Blackburn midfielder recovered from a serious injury. He was due to miss March's Euro 2020 play-offs before they were postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Cooper's Oxford and former Glenavon teammate Mark Sykes is not included, after reports he is opting to play for the Republic. 

Before his change of heart, the 23-year-old midfielder was expected to be named by Baraclough, having been part of the new manager's team when he was in charge of the U21s.

Sykes was called into the senior squad three times by former manager Michael O'Neill but never made an appearance.

Baraclough has given his reaction to the rejection: 

As expected, Sykes has not been included in the Republic of Ireland squad at this stage: 




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