Belfast Telegraph

Bid to block Republic picking Northern Ireland football players

By Stuart McKinley

The Irish FA is facing an anxious wait before being told if the Court of Arbitration for Sport backs its interpretation of FIFA’s eligibility rules.

And they may not find out if the Republic of Ireland are to be blocked from selecting any player born on the island of Ireland until September.

For years now the IFA have urged FIFA to enforce Article 15 of its statutes, which states that a player, one of his biological parents or grandparents must be born on the territory of the relevant association before he can represent that particular country — with Northern Ireland-born players not being eligible for the Republic of Ireland.

After getting no joy despite numerous pleas, going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport was the IFA’s last move.

Top brass from Windsor Avenue were in Lausanne, Switzerland yesterday to put their case to the CAS, with representatives of the FAI and FIFA also in attendance.

The IFA refused to speak officially on the matter last night and say they won’t do so until they are informed of the outcome of the hearing.

A spokesman did say: “We won’t know anything immediately. It will be days, possibly weeks, before the Court of Arbitration makes a final decision.

“We hope it is sooner rather than later, but we aren’t in control of the matter and these things can’t be rushed.

“We would like to have an answer for the fans, but what has to be remembered is that we have never been in this situation before — we have never dealt with CAS previously — and we simply have to wait for their decision.”

The waiting game for the IFA and Northern Ireland fans is only just beginning though.

It was only last Friday that CAS announced its decision on the outcome of a hearing held on May 10 — after almost 10 weeks — and with so much to consider this case could possibly take even longer to sort out.

Belfast-born Daniel Kearns is the test case put forward by the IFA at the hearing. The 18-year-old — who has recently been released by West Ham United — played at under-17 level for Northern Ireland, before switching when he reached the under-19 age group.

The IFA claim that none of Kearns’ family members were born in the Republic of Ireland and by playing him the FAI are in breach of FIFA regulations.

Other Northern Ireland-born players, Darron Gibson, Marc Wilson and Shane Duffy have declared for the Republic, but Everton’s Duffy has a family background in Donegal and Wilson is also believed to have a grandparent born in the Republic.

Gibson, however, has won full caps for Giovanni Trapattoni’s team without any family links with the country — which has angered the IFA, leading them to take this path.

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