Belfast Telegraph

IFA deny stalling McClean’s switch to Republic

By Graham Luney

The Irish Football Association have denied claims they are using delaying tactics to stop James McClean from representing the Republic of Ireland.

The Sunderland new boy has been the subject of a tug of war between the IFA and their southern rivals, the Football Association of Ireland.

McClean has played for Northern Ireland at youth and Under-21 level but has now opted for the Republic.

The 22-year-old winger reiterated his determination to play for the Republic when he took a phone call from the new Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill.

However, before McClean can turn out in a competitive senior fixture, his elibility papers must be signed, sealed and delivered to Fifa.

McClean is desperate to feature in the Republic’s friendly against the Czech Republic on February 29 — and, more importantly, make Giovanni Trapattoni’s squad for the European Championships in the summer.

The player, who turned down a Northern Ireland senior call-up last year, has signed elibility papers but the FAI feel the IFA, upset at the number of defections to the Republic, are failing to co-operate in a speedy manner.

However, the IFA say they aren’t dragging their feet and discovered themselves how long the registration process can take as goalkeeper, Englishman Lee Camp, wasn’t cleared to play for Northern Ireland until March last year — despite declaring an interest back in September 2010.

IFA president Jim Shaw said: “The whole process is a lengthy one as we discovered in the Lee Camp situation. It’s very time consuming and there’s no question of us deliberately holding things up.

“I would agree that it can be done a lot quicker, the whole process can be speeded up. But it can take up to 10 months.”

It took Fifa around that length of time to process the papers for the transfer of former West Ham player Daniel Kearns from Northern Ireland to the Republic.

The FAI felt that the IFA didn’t immediately sign their side of the form.

The papers concerning another player, Derry-born Eunan O’Kane of Torquay United, are also taking a long time to go through.

The Republic of Ireland play their opening match of Euro 2012 against Croatia on June 10 and must submit their squad for the tournament by the end of May.

McClean, who left Derry City for Sunderland in a £350,000 deal, has shone under current boss, Kilrea man Martin O’Neill, scoring on his second full appearance against Wigan Athletic.

McClean said: “If I don't get called up, then I'll live with that but I have confidence in my own ability.”

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