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Former Northern Ireland midfielder Sykes thrilled to get the nod to make switch to Republic

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Mark Sykes

Mark Sykes

Mark Sykes

Former Glenavon star Mark Sykes has been cleared to play for the Republic of Ireland after switching allegiance from Northern Ireland last August.

However, the 23-year-old midfielder says he knows he must nail down a regular starting slot with Oxford United if he wants to be considered for the March internationals.

He was called up for Oxford's 1-0 EFL Trophy win over Cambridge United on Tuesday night having been overlooked for the previous five games.

Stephen Kenny's team has World Cup qualifying games against Serbia and Luxembourg before playing a friendly against Qatar in a busy few days in March.

Sykes was invited to join up with Kenny's squad last year with a view to playing this year, but more club games are required for that to happen, says the Ormeau Road man.

"Clearance came through a month ago, I got a letter last month," said the former Mourneview Park favourite. "But if I'm not playing at Oxford I can't expect to get into the international team.

"I joined up with the squad ahead of the game against England (November 12) last year. I trained with them at Barnet and there have been no games since, so things are quiet.

"There are games coming up in March but I need to sort my club situation out first, because it was a career decision that made me switch in the first place.

"But I'm a realist, and I know that I have to be playing regularly and well if I want to play international football."

Meanwhile, Gavin Whyte revealed his head was in a spin this week after Hull City - managed by former Northern Ireland and Linfield midfielder Grant McCann - took the winger on loan from Cardiff City until the end of the season.

Whyte hasn't featured prominently for Cardiff this season under Neil Harris and was lured by both his new manager and the prospect of playing more football.

He went straight into McCann's starting line-up yesterday for Hull's 1-1 draw with Blackpool, coming up against international team mate Daniel Ballard.

"It happened really quickly, but I want to play, ideally every week, and when I heard Grant was interested I went for it," the 24-year-old told Sunday Life Sport.

"The manager told me Hull wanted me on loan, he was okay with it but told me it was up to me.

"Grant's plans sounded good, I signed on Friday and moved my family to Hull on the same day. I'm delighted.

"Josh (Magennis, Hull striker) has been texting me and hopefully we'll get to play well together for the team in the coming months."

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