Michael O'Neill says he doesn't want any more players switching south
New Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill has called the recruitment of Northern-born players to the Republic team "wrong".
The former Shamrock Rovers boss was presented to the press yesterday and the big topic for discussion was the continued flow of players from Northern Ireland declaring to play for the Republic.
Darron Gibson and Marc Wilson are the most high-profile but to date only Gibson can’t switch back as he has played in competitive games for the FAI team. Sadly, he is probably one we would allow to go back if we could.
Others who could go either way are the highly promising James McClean, Newcastle’s Shane Ferguson and Everton’s Shane Duffy and O’Neill is hoping he can persuade some or all of them to stick with him.
“We have to grow our own players and maintain their allegiance to Northern Ireland. I want them to have ambitions to play for Northern Ireland. We have to be fully inclusive for all players qualified for our national team,” he said.
“I have never hidden the fact that I think it’s wrong for the FAI to be able to cap our players. I can’t answer for players. It is a personal decision and we have to respect it while doing everything in our power to make them stay.”
O’Neill is the first Catholic in 50 years to manage the North’s footballers and he believes this can also help in keeping some or all on board.
“I think it probably will,” he said when asked about his own upbringing. “I understand the background these lads have.”
The fight over the futures of a number of Irish qualified players may have just heated up but the lure of Euro 2012 may trump whatever argument O'Neill may have.