Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 July 2014

Republic U21 defender switches allegiance to Northern Ireland

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.”

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