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Baraclough hits the panic switch over fears Sykes defection could cause mass exodus of players

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Mark Sykes (left) and Ian Baraclough during their time with the Northern Ireland Under-21 side

Mark Sykes (left) and Ian Baraclough during their time with the Northern Ireland Under-21 side

PMAKER

Mark Sykes (left) and Ian Baraclough during their time with the Northern Ireland Under-21 side

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.