Belfast Telegraph

Paul Smyth is 'fully committed' to Northern Ireland, says U21s coach

U21 boss Baraclough confirms QPR man will not opt for the Republic

By Steven Beacom

Flying winger Paul Smyth is 'fully committed' to Northern Ireland, according to under-21 manager Ian Baraclough.

QPR star Smyth was unwittingly caught up in a row between Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill and Republic counterpart Martin O'Neill earlier this month when the pair had their say on the thorny issue of eligibility.

There had been suggestions that the former Linfield hero was on the FAI's radar with Republic manager O'Neill saying he would speak to Smyth only if the player declared an interest in switching from north to south, which he is allowed to do under Fifa rules.

Ahead of Thursday's crucial European Championship U21 clash at home to Spain, Baraclough made it clear where he feels Smyth's allegiances lie, declaring: "Paul Smyth is a Northern Ireland player. He is an integral part of the under-21s and Michael (O'Neill) likes him a lot. Paul feels very much at home here and he is fully committed."

With several Irish League players in the Northern Ireland under-21 squad, Baraclough added that 20-year-old Smyth should be viewed by them as a beacon for what can be achieved.

"Paul is a shining light for everyone who is playing over here. He was in the Linfield team and was one of the mainstays of last season's success for them and he got his move to QPR," said the former Motherwell boss.

"Since then, he has put his head down and worked really, really hard at QPR and I know the manager and coaching staff there and they tell me how much he is valued."

Belfast Telegraph

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