Dismayed Northern Ireland boss Ian Baraclough still can't quite believe that Mark Sykes has switched allegiance to the Republic of Ireland.
Baraclough was ready to give the Oxford United midfielder his competitive senior international debut in the upcoming Nations League games against Romania and Norway, only for the 23-year-old to inform him that he did not wish to be involved and that his heart lay with the FAI rather than the IFA.
Sykes starred for Baraclough at Under-21 level.
The pair got on well and the latter felt sure the ex-Glenavon player could become a regular in his squad going forward. No longer.
He openly admits that Sykes, who came through the IFA ranks, declaring for the Republic has rocked him and all at Windsor Park.
Predecessor Michael O'Neill often felt aggrieved when players turned their back on Northern Ireland for the Republic. It even led to a frosty atmosphere with Martin O'Neill when he was in charge at the Aviva Stadium.
Baraclough and current southern counterpart, Stephen Kenny, aren't at that stage yet, but they have had a frank conversation about Sykes, with the Northern Ireland boss feeling Kenny should have called him rather than the other way round.
Despite featuring in 11 Under-21 internationals, with Sykes not having played a senior competitive game for Northern Ireland, FIFA rules allowed him to switch as others - such as James McClean and Shane Duffy - have done after playing in IFA sides at youth level.
"I know the associations have had dialogue in the past and I'm sure that will continue," says Baraclough.
"As far as myself and Stephen Kenny goes, those conversations will remain private.
"For me going forward, we have to work within the rules and we won't do anything different to that."
With FIFA looking at potential new eligibility regulations, does that provide Baraclough with any hope?
"Until something gets ratified and something gets rubber stamped, there's nothing we can do in that respect," he says.
"For me, young players are put in a very, very difficult situation. As an association, we work with players from a young age, we've got coaches at all age groups that work so hard to develop these young players, giving these players a pathway to progress from age group to age group, and for them to decide at the final hurdle not to take the opportunity to play senior football is very, very disappointing as an association.
"For all those coaches and managers, people that all come together to develop a player such as Mark Sykes, I think it just dismays us to see a decision like that. At no stage did I have any inkling that this would happen.
"A taxi driver was telling me here he's got a young lad in the academy at Under-13 level and he hit the nail on the head; if a player like that was to get in the way of his son coming through, he would be rightly aggrieved. It's taken away an opportunity to develop one that you know would go and play 100% for Northern Ireland and that's where we don't feel the rules are fair in that respect.
"We're concerned about all of our players. I suppose anybody's in the mix. We don't ask players week in, week out about their eligibility, for me we just continue to try and nurture them."
Following the move from Sykes, talented young Leeds United star Alfie McCalmont tweeted "what a load of rubbish" to a suggestion that he had considered switching to the Republic.
Baraclough adds: "Alfie again is one we have nurtured through the system. I spoke to him last week, he's desperate to be involved with the Northern Ireland senior set up, he will join the Under-21s next week and, again, continue his development, and I have great hopes for Alfie, as I have with all the players that are coming through, and am excited to see him develop.
"I'm really pleased to see him sign his new deal with Leeds, I know it was something he wanted to do and now he's looking forward, whether that's with Leeds or out on loan, but he needs to play regular games at club level and he certainly comes into the equation for my squad."
Asked about Sykes, IFA President David Martin said: "We are disappointed. We have invested time and considerable effort, as we do with all of our young players. He represented us at youth level through to the Under-21s and we would have liked to see him make the next step. It is regrettable but the regulations afford players to make a personal choice on this issue."