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Craigan’s battle cry gives IFA Olympic headache

The Irish Football Association has reiterated its opposition to Northern Ireland players competing for a Great Britain side at the Olympics — despite international centre-back Stephen Craigan urging players to defy their associations and make themselves available for the team.

The 54-times capped Motherwell skipper said he would like to see players such as Wales ace Gareth Bale ‘break ranks’ and compete in the London Olympics — but that view is not shared at Windsor Avenue where the IFA, along with their Scots and Welsh counterparts, would not support their players’ participation.

Craigan sparked another twist in the long-running dispute when he said: “It would be nice to see one of the top players breaking ranks, just to see what the reaction would be. Whether he would be welcomed back or put out.”

The IFA struck an agreement with Scotland and Wales in May 2009 stating their refusal to get involved in the GB side, fearing that involvement with a GB team could threaten their separate Fifa status in the future.

Fifa vice president and former IFA president Jim Boyce has offered to mediate in the dispute but current IFA chief Jim Shaw says their policy remains unchanged.

“Stephen (Craigan) is entitled to his opinion and I can understand players wanting to play for a GB team but our view is clear,” said current IFA president Shaw.

“We cannot legislate for players wanting to play in the team, if that is their choice I doubt whether we could stop them but it it is not something we will encourage or support.

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“We must consider the IFA’s interests in this matter and it would be very wrong if we didn’t do that. We have to protect our interests.”

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