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Former Northern Ireland U21 international Michael Duffy set for Republic switch as Martin O'Neill confirms interest



Michael Duffy has scored 10 league goals for Dundalk so far this season.

Michael Duffy has scored 10 league goals for Dundalk so far this season.

©INPHO/Ciaran Culligan

Michael Duffy has scored 10 league goals for Dundalk so far this season.

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill has admitted that he wants to complete an international switch for a former Northern Ireland Under 21 international.

Dundalk's Michael Duffy played for NI's underage sides up until 2016 and was even called into Michael O'Neill's senior squad for the World Cup qualifying trip to the Czech Republic back in September 2016.

The 24-year-old, who began his career at hometown club Derry City, didn't make it into O'Neill's match-day panel and, uncapped at senior level, could now seal a switch to represent RoI, subject to international clearance from FIFA.

Duffy has not been included in Martin O'Neill's provisional squad for the Republic of Ireland's first game in the new UEFA Nations League against Wales in Cardiff on Thursday week.

“I’ve a lot of time for that young man and I’m going to do something about it," Republic boss Martin O'Neill told the Irish Mirror. "I’ve spoken to him and I’d like to take him on.”

Just last month, Duffy said that he would accept a senior call-up to either Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland, although admitted that if he had to choose, he would rather play for RoI.

"If a call came from Martin O'Neill, I would be delighted - I'd jump at that," he told Off The Ball. "The same thing, I was obviously in the Northern Ireland squad. It's just a huge thing to play for international country. So, I wouldn't be turning down either. Obviously, if Martin came I would take that opportunity.

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"I can't turn it down really. You couldn't say no to anyone offering you an international. I'd love to play for Republic but obviously I've lots of family from Northern Ireland, as well. It really doesn't make a difference to me. If I did have to choose; I would be choosing Republic of Ireland."

Duffy signed for Celtic in 2015 but didn't make a senior appearance for the Hoops and returned to Ireland after loan spells at Alloa Athletic and Dundee.

The attacker signed for Dundalk ahead of the 2017 season and has so far scored 18 Airtricity League goals for the club.

"I've got a lot of time for him," Martin O'Neill told RTÉ. "I think he's an exceptionally talented player. It didn't happen for him at Celtic. He wouldn't be the first young player to have gone over there and not come through.

"He definitely has the ability to go past players, it's nice to see. I've seen him on both types of surfaces - on what I would consider the normal pitches and I've seen him play at Dundalk on the artificial surface.  He's a definite talent, there's no question about that."

Earlier this year, Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill had urged the Republic of Ireland and any other nation to steer clear of discussing a switch in international allegiance with NI's underage players.

O'Neill said that the players should be allowed to progress to senior level, as Duffy has, without the "responsibility of having to make a decision regarding his international allegiance that is binding for the rest of his career".

He continued: "Recent media reports have sparked much opinion, particularly around the rights of players born in Northern Ireland to be free to choose for whom they wish to play. I have never disputed that right. Nor have I ever been critical of a player for exercising that right.

"The FAI correctly states it has broken no rules in approaching young Northern Ireland players. My concerns lie specifically with players aged 17 to 21 in the underage set-ups."

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