Belfast Telegraph

O'Neill rails at Republic's poaching of 'Catholic only' Northern Ireland footballers

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill

By Staff Reporter

Michael O'Neill has taken aim at the Football Association of Ireland, saying it targets players from a nationalist background here to switch allegiances to play for the Republic.

The Northern Ireland-born quintet of James McClean, Shane Duffy, Darron Gibson, Marc Wilson and Eunan O'Kane all play for the Republic.

An Irish Daily Mail article quoted the former Shamrock Rovers boss. In it he said he would speak to Republic manager Martin O'Neill to try and come to some arrangement to halt the practice of young Northern Ireland players declaring for the Republic.

"The FAI only ever approach one type of player: Catholic," he claimed. "I don't have a problem with James McClean. He was 22 years of age, he knew what he wanted. I have a problem when it's a 16, 17 or 18-year-old having to make a decision on his international future.

"I can list you 10 players who have made that decision and have never represented the Republic. I hope that Martin and I can get some sort of gentleman's agreement whereby if a young boy has represented Northern Ireland at age 17 to 21, the FAI don't ask him to change."

His fellow Ulsterman can expect questions on the subject when he names his squad tomorrow for the friendly with Turkey in Antalya later this month.

It also adds an extra talking point to the sides' friendly match this autumn. The Republic welcome Northern Ireland to Dublin on November 15 for the first meeting between the two since 2011.

Reports in recent weeks have suggested that the Northern Ireland manager is trying to convince Rangers loan star Sean Goss to declare.

Goss, a German-born 22-year-old midfielder who qualifies for Northern Ireland on the grandparent rule, is O'Neill's latest recruitment target after it was revealed last month he is set to secure Huddersfield Town defender Sean Scannell, who played non-senior international football for the Republic.

Belfast Telegraph


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