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Republic U21 defender switches allegiance to Northern Ireland

By Jim Gracey

Published 07/09/2012

Shane McEleney
Shane McEleney

Derry City’s Shane McEleney has reversed the trend of player defections to the Republic by switching his allegiance to Northern Ireland.

The centre-back, who has represented the Republic of Ireland at under-age level up to U21, made his decision after a scoring debut for Stephen Robinson’s NI U21 side in their friendly defeat by Hungary last month.

Talks with Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill confirmed the 21-year-old’s change of heart.

“I want to be playing international football — it’s good for your CV and good for your career, so when Northern Ireland came in I was more than happy to declare, because I wasn’t featuring with the Republic,” McEleney explained.

“I’m now looking forward to pursuing my international career with Northern Ireland. I met Michael O’Neill a couple of times and he’s a top man — he’s a nice fella and he had a good word to say about me and how things were going to progress in the future, so I was more than happy with what was happening. I was delighted to score a goal and play 45 minutes out in Hungary and now I’m looking forward to playing for Northern Ireland and I can’t wait.”

McEleney is taking the opposite path to former Brandywell team-mate James McClean who made a high-profile switch in the other direction and the defender believes he, too, has made the right decision for his career.

“I make my own decisions, I don’t speak to anyone apart from my mother and father and we were all happy with the decision.

“Firstly, I have to get my international clearance in. There's an U21 game against England in November and hopefully I can play in that.”

Belfast Telegraph

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