SUNDERLAND defender Dan Ballard is a major injury doubt for Northern Ireland’s home game with Denmark tomorrow – and could face a battle to regain fitness for Saturday’s return to domestic action with the Black Cats.

Ballard played the full 90 minutes on Friday as Northern Ireland were thrashed 4-0 in Finland, and had been expected to retain his place for tomorrow’s final Euros qualifier in Belfast.

However, Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill revealed at his press conference earlier today that Ballard was a doubtful starter against Denmark because of a hamstring issue.

That will be a worry for Sunderland boss Tony Mowbray, who was without Ballard because of a suspension when his side beat Birmingham City in their final game before the international break.


The Black Cats return to action when they travel to Plymouth Argyle on Saturday, and Mowbray will be hoping to have Ballard in his squad.

“One of the challenges in this campaign is we’ve had to constantly change the team and we’ve constantly had to change the defensive line-up and that’s where we’ve struggled to get real consistency,” said O’Neill.

“When you’ve got a real strong back four or back three and consistency, from game to game you get belief and continuity and obviously we haven’t been able to do that in this campaign.”