Belfast Telegraph

Fury as Northern Ireland's Devine opts for Republic of Ireland

By Stuart McKinley

Nigel Worthington is demanding action from Fifa to finally stop Northern Ireland-born players being snatched away by the Republic of Ireland.

The eligibility dispute — which has already seen the likes of Darron Gibson, Adam Barton, Marc Wilson and Paul George defect after playing for Northern Ireland — came to the fore again yesterday when international manager Worthington revealed that another talented youngster has decided to switch his allegiance after being capped at underage level.

Daniel Devine, a defender, has turned his back on Northern Ireland — and it looks almost certain that Shane Ferguson is about to do the same.

Worthington had wanted to select the Belfast-born Devine in his squad for next week’s Carling Nations Cup clashes with the Republic and Wales.

Devine, however, has rejected the call-up, informing Worthington that he wants to play for the Republic instead, thus exploiting our ‘dual citizenship’ loophole by possessing an Irish passport.

Ironically, the 19-year-old played his youth football with Linfield before moving to Preston — and recently attracted interest from Scottish champions Rangers.

Worthington also wanted to include Newcastle United youngster Ferguson in the Carling Nations squad but has been unable to contact him.

“If you are born in the country you should be representing that country,” said Worthington.

“At the moment we are producing young players and when they come of an age — 18-years-old, 19 or 20 — some, but not all, decide that they would like to go elsewhere.

“I think it’s very harsh on the association. It’s very harsh on the team and probably most of all on the Northern Ireland supporters.

“There’s a production of young talent coming through and every now and again we seem to be losing one or two, which is very harsh.

“Until people in high places make a firm decision on the circumstances I’m afraid it’s going to continue.”

Last summer the IFA failed in their bid to get the Court of Arbitration for Sport to overturn a Fifa verdict that a passport alone could make a Northern Ireland-born player eligible for the Republic of Ireland.

And now Worthington wants the world governing body to re-examine their original decision.

“It’s got to come from Fifa; it’s a football issue,” he said.

“Until it’s clarified that you are straightforward one or the other this situation is going to continue and we’re the ones — Northern Ireland — who are the wrong end of the stick.”

The Belfast Telegraph understands that Ferguson intends to switch to the Republic, but Worthington remains in the dark.

“Myself and two other individuals within the association have left voicemail messages, sent text messages and made random calls to Shane Ferguson and they’ve never been accepted,” said Worthington.

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