Belfast Telegraph

Magilton warns emerging talent

By Stuart McKinley

Jim Magilton has warned any player who is considering turning his back on Northern Ireland to be careful not to plunge themselves into the international wilderness.

The Irish FA has invoked the Fifa five-day rule to ban Cameron McGeehan from playing for Luton Town today after he knocked back a call up to Magilton's under-21 squad for today's opening European Championship qualifier.

It is believed that the 20-year-old wants to take his chances with England, similar to Dominic Ball, who has won under-19 and under-20 caps for England, despite playing for Northern Ireland at every level bar full international.

Making it at the top level with England is a completely different challenge however and the danger for anyone who doesn't break through is that they have contributed to ending their own international careers.

"There is no ambiguity. Once a player makes the decision to switch that's it, there is no going back. It's clear in the Fifa rules," said Magilton.

"We couldn't select them again under any circumstances."

With France, Iceland, Poland and Macedonia also in the group, the goal of qualifying for the 2017 finals in Poland may be beyond Northern Ireland, but Magilton believes that there is plenty for his young group to aim for - particularly if the senior team does make it to the Euro 2016 finals in France.

"The objective for us is to push as many players from this group into the senior squad as we possibly can," said Magilton.

"One of Michael O'Neill's first opportunities to see a Northern Ireland team play after he took the job was an under-21 game and eight of that team are now in the senior squad.

"These players have a fantastic platform and pathway to get into the senior squad and they know that the manager is watching them.

"They also don't know how close they could be to playing in the Euro 2016 finals."

U-21 Qualifier: Mourneview Park, Lurgan (2.00 pm)

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