Northern Ireland boss blasts Republic of Ireland over defections
— Official Irish FA (@OfficialIrishFA) September 29, 2015
Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill has hit out at the Republic of Ireland for making approaches to his youth players.
Players born in Northern Ireland can choose to represent the Republic, as long as they have not played a senior international. The likes of Everton’s Darron Gibson, West Brom’s James McClean, Bournemouth’s Eunan O’Kane and Stoke City’s Marc Wilson have already taken advantage of that ruling.
But O’Neill has hit out at the FAI for allegedly making direct approaches to player in Northern Ireland’s age-group teams. He also criticised the players involved for representing Northern Ireland in the first place if their preference is to play for the Republic of Ireland instead.
O’Neill believes it is dishonest for youngsters to take the experience and caps on offer at youth team if they have no intention of progressing to the senior setup.
He told The Sun: “If young players want to play for another country, what’s the point of playing for someone else so early in their careers?
“Our disappointment is they were played ahead of someone else. If a player wants to play for another nation, then there is nothing we can do to stop it.
“Players have to be honest. Don’t come and represent us if you don’t want to play for us.
“We have used the rules to bring in the likes of [England-born] Jamie Ward, Martin Paterson and Ollie Norwood — but they have a bloodline to Northern Ireland.
“Where we suffer is that the FAI don’t need that to take players born in Northern Ireland.
“Unfortunately, decisions are sometimes made on emotion rather than rationale.”
It appears the defection of Sheffield United’s Belfast-born under-17 star Stephen Mallon to the Republic of Ireland has stirred up the latest controversy.
The Irish FA’s elite development officer Jim Magilton echoes O’Neill’s sentiments.
He told the same publication: “We know players have been approached by other associations. It is disappointing but we have to deal with it. I would like some honesty and dignity if it happens, but that’s not always the case.
“Stephen Mallon was playing for us a month ago in Slovenia and now he has been called up by the Republic. He has played 13 games for us. It is really disappointing that someone else has missed out because he played.”