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Baraclough prepared to fight old rival Kenny for services of dual nationality players

 

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New Northern Ireland football manager Ian Baraclough pictured at the National Stadium in Belfast (Kelvin Boyes/PressEye)

New Northern Ireland football manager Ian Baraclough pictured at the National Stadium in Belfast (Kelvin Boyes/PressEye)

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

New Northern Ireland football manager Ian Baraclough pictured at the National Stadium in Belfast (Kelvin Boyes/PressEye)

New Northern Ireland supremo Ian Baraclough is primed and ready to tackle old adversary Stephen Kenny for the hearts and minds of Londonderry-born players lured to Dublin by the Republic.

Republic manager Kenny is still lauded in Derry after two successful stints as boss with the Candystripes. And Baraclough's former League of Ireland rival has made it clear he will take full advantage of FIFA's eligibility ruling allowing any player who hails from Northern Ireland and holds an Irish passport to play for the Republic, provided they haven't played in a senior competitive fixture.

In recent years, Derry's James McClean, Shane Duffy and Michael Duffy have all jumped ship from the Irish FA to the FAI. Former Manchester United ace Darron Gibson was the first high profile player to make the move south.

Baraclough, during his first week in his new role, insists he is determined to use his powers of persuasion to encourage Northern Ireland-born players to snub the Republic of Ireland, however he will not entertain politics in the conversation.

"I speak to players, their family members and their representatives and tell them this is the reason why I think Northern Ireland is a country you should be considering playing for," stresses Leicester-born Baraclough.

"But I'm not going to get involved with the politics of it all, for me it's about the football and it's about people who want to play for Northern Ireland, and that has got to come through to me."

FIFA caused a storm in 2009 when, on the steps of the Slieve Donard Hotel in Newcastle, Sepp Blatter announced Northern Ireland-born players were free to play for the Republic.

The case was even taken to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, which the IFA ultimately lost.

Previous Northern Ireland managers Nigel Worthington and Michael O'Neill have fought hard against the ruling, but the Irish FA have, in recent years, been forced to accept the decision and instead concentrate on dialogue with players and their families in a bid to encourage them to stay.

Baraclough may be from England but he certainly understands the complexities of the eligibility issue.

He admits: "It's not a simple process and it's something we have to adjust to. You want players to play for Northern Ireland but I'm also mindful of the fact players have got the right to play for either the north or the south. It is their choice.

"We want them to play for Northern Ireland, but it is a sensitive subject, and I hope dialogue with players will find out if they want to play for Northern Ireland first and foremost.

"I'm keen on players making the decisions for the right reasons. Do they feel as though they are better off playing with Northern Ireland, do they see it as a pathway and do they want to play for Northern Ireland is what I'm interested in."

Belfast Telegraph