Belfast Telegraph

I'm here to stay with Northern Ireland: Kane

By Stuart McKinley

Tony Kane has revealed that an administrative blunder on the part of the Irish Football Association led him to seek his international future south of the border.

Now, however, just two calls from Northern Ireland manager have brought the Belfast-born defender back north and to the verge of a full debut for the country of his birth.

Manchester United midfielder Darron Gibson has found himself at the centre of an international tug-of-war between north and south as the IFA press FIFA for a decision on whether Irish Passport holders born in Northern Ireland are eligible for the Republic's teams.

Kane is also on the list of players whose eligibility the IFA wanted checked out after winning two under-21 caps for the Republic earlier this year, but now there will be no need for his qualifications to come under scrutiny as he is fully committed to Northern Ireland.

Nigel Worthington has called the Blackburn Rovers man into the squad for Saturday's Euro 2008 qualifier away to Latvia and the game in Iceland four days later. An appearance at any stage in those two games will stamp Kane as Northern Ireland property, as far as international football is concerned.

"I am delighted to be in the squad and that all the complications of the last year or so can be put behind me," Kane told the Belfast Telegraph.

"I enjoyed playing for the Northern Ireland under-19 team under Mal Donaghy and Seamus Heath and had a good relationship with them.

"Last year I was called into the under-21 squad for the Milk Cup, which clashed with my first pre-season trip with the Blackburn first-team.

"I was going to have to cut the trip short by a couple of days to join up with the Northern Ireland squad, which wasn't ideal because I was trying to make an impression with the manager Mark Hughes.

"Then a couple of days before I was due to leave I got a call to say that I hadn't been properly registered for the tournament.

"I thought that was an absolute joke and I was left wondering if they really wanted me to play for Northern Ireland.

"All I've ever been interested in is playing football and when I was offered the chance to play for the Republic it felt good to be wanted and for me it was the right decision at the time because I didn't feel that Northern Ireland wanted me.

"Nigel Worthington called me a couple of times in the last few weeks to see what my thoughts were and I told him that I always wanted to play for Northern Ireland."

And Worthington's calls were enough for Kane to turn his back on the Republic - for good.

"It was nice to have the Northern Ireland manager make that effort and make it known that he wanted me to be part of the set-up," said Kane, whose call-up came as something of a late 20th birthday present.

"As far as what has happened in the past I hope that is forgotten about now and I can concentrate on playing for Northern Ireland. I am committed to the country now."

Belfast Telegraph


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