Disgruntled Irish FA chiefs last night admitted defeat in their bitter dual nationality dispute with the FAI and FIFA.
IFA chiefs, past and present, fought a determined campaign over the last four years to halt the FAI recruitment of Northern Ireland-born players including Manchester United’s Darron Gibson, Portsmouth’s Marc Wilson and Everton’s Shane Duffy.
However, after the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland rejected their case on Friday, IFA bosses conceded it is now openseason on Northern Ireland-qualified players. The Republic can now take their pick of top talent developed here, with the blessing of FIFA and sport’s High Court, the moment they exercise their right, under the Good Friday Agreement, to take out an Irish passport.
“It goes against our interpretation of the FIFA rules on qualification but that’s it, the decision has been made and there is nothing we can do about it,” admitted outgoing IFA President Raymond Kennedy.
“There is no further avenue to go down. We’ve lost and we’re all bitterly disappointed.
“Now we have to try and work even harder to persuade those players who might be a target for Republic overtures that Northern Ireland is the team they should be playing for.
“The Irish FA will move on from this and continue with our excellent Football for All programmes.
“We’re not going to let this stop us from trying to produce the best players we can for Northern Ireland.”
For the full story, see this week's Sunday Life.