MCILROY LOOKING TO GET HUGHES

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NORTHERN IRELAND boss Sammy McIlroy is targeting West Bromwich Albion striker Lee Hughes as the man to solve the country's long-term goalscoring problems after discovering he had an Irish relative.

The prolific scorer, who notched-up a hat-trick against Gillingham last weekend, taking his tally to 11 goals this campaign, has emerged as a shock target to play for McIlroy's side and the former Macclesfield boss would like to have him available for the World Cup qualifier against the Czech Republic next March.

McIlroy is keen to add to his attacking options with the national side and he has been using Manchester United reserve striker David Healy as his sole forward, but Hughes fits the bill as to the type of player he wants playing alongside Healy.

"He would be an excellent capture for us," McIlroy told the official West Brom website. "I know Lawrie McMenemy was after him but discovered he had no Northern Ireland background. Now his agent tells me he has.

"We must sort out the facts. I have put a number of calls to several people with no response so far.

"Now I am going to ask Albion manager Gary Megson for permission to speak to the player himself. Lee is a bustling goalscorer, but we must ensure he has the correct qualifications," added McIlroy.

Hughes himself is unsure over whether he qualifies with this relative or not, but if he does he admitted he will seriously consider playing for Northern Ireland.

"I'm not sure whether that is enough," said Hughes. "She was a relative of my nan who died quite a few years ago.

"This is something I've not given too much attention to, but I know my agent was in touch with the Irish FA last week. If I do qualify then I would give it serious consideration."

If Hughes does qualify and chooses to play for Northern Ireland he could link-up with his Hawthorns team-mate James Quinn in the Irish side.

Meanwhile, the Baggies have invited Igor Balis back to the club for a second trial, so that Gary Megson can have another look at the player and assess whether to make a move to sign him or not.

The 30-year-old Slovakian right wing-back impressed during his first spell at the promotion hopefuls and he will play in the reserves against Bolton hoping to win a permanent move to the Hawthorns.