Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland v Faroe Islands: David Healy slams those who defect to Republic

By Stuart McKinley

As Northern Ireland’s record goalscorer David Healy has a history of hitting the target.

And he didn’t miss this time as the striker slammed the defectors who have won caps for Northern Ireland at various levels only to turn their back on the country when decision time on their international career came around.

Healy has accused certain players of abusing the shirt that he himself has played off his back many times in his 86-cap international career.

The row of eligibility criteria — under which Fifa permits Northern Ireland-born players to declare for the Republic of Ireland — has escalated to such an extent that a growing number of players called into senior squad by manager Nigel Worthington have gone on to switch their allegiance.

In the case of one, Adam Barton of Preston North End, he was capped by Northern Ireland before accepting a call-up to the Republic’s under-21 and playing for them.

At the weekend Worthington saw James McClean — who is about to complete a move from Derry City to Sunderland — become the latest to make a decision to switch his international allegiance.

That decision was confirmed on the day that he was due to meet up with the Northern Ireland squad for tomorrow night’s Euro 2012 qualifier at home to the Faroe Islands.

Previously Everton’s Shane Duffy defected after being on the bench for Northern Ireland in a friendly against Italy, while last November Barton was capped against Morocco, before appearing for the Republic’s under-21s four months later.

Londonderry-born McClean has said that it’s his dream to play for the Republic, yet he appeared for Northern Ireland at under-21 level and was also part of the under-20 team that won the Milk Cup in 2008.

“If you don’t want to come and play for Northern Ireland don’t abuse the shirt, don’t abuse the nation,” said Healy.

“Don’t insult the manger and the IFA by claiming that you want to come and play in a friendly as players have done previously.

“They’ve felt as if they weren’t sure, haven’t decided where they want to play.

“They’ve said ‘can I come and play in a meaningless friendly where it doesn’t matter much, mix among the lads for three or four days and then disappear off the face of the earth and we don’t see them again’.

“Don’t abuse it, don’t abuse the shirt.

“Northern Ireland has always been a place where we’ve prided ourselves on great pride and passion and don’t come and take advantage of our country.

“If you don’t want to play for Northern Ireland and don’t want to have the joy of playing for Northern Ireland don’t come in and abuse the shirt.

“Don’t come in as if you want to play a friendly game and then decide you don’t want to play for us.

“Come in and give the shirt a bit of respect and show the country that you really want to play for us.”

Steve Davis backed up Healy by calling on any players who are considering ditching Northern Ireland to make their intentions clear early — and not after they’ve been called into the squad for a senior international.

“The rule exists and it gives a player a choice,” said Davis.

“It’s obviously a bit unfair on Northern Ireland football when there are people putting the time and the effort into coaching them and trying to bring them through and then at the final hurdle they decide to go elsewhere.

“I think they could do things before it gets to that final hurdle and if people made up their minds at an earlier stage there wouldn’t be so much controversy about it.”

Meanwhile Gareth McAuley wants to ignore those who defect by effectively drawing a line under the eligibility row.

“If someone has to think about playing for Northern Ireland then we aren't interested (in them),” said McAuley.

“We wish them all the best with whatever they want to do, but I don't even think we should talking about it.

“If you don't want to play for us then that shouldn't be getting any press from the players' point of view.”

Belfast Telegraph


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