DUTCH-BORN starlet Barry Maguire, the man who helped knock Celtic out of Europe last month, has said he's willing to answer Ireland's call and play for the Republic -- if the FAI can be bothered to get him on the phone.
Maguire plays for Dutch top-flight side Utrecht and has been playing first-team football for five seasons even though he's only 20, but he has a chequered career at international level.
The midfielder -- whose father, Martin, is from Dublin -- appeared for Ireland at U15 level but then opted to play for his native Holland, and has even lined out for the Dutch against Ireland for an underage international in Dublin.
A scorer for Utrecht against Celtic a few weeks ago, Maguire came close to a return to the Irish fold last year when he was named in an U21 squad by the Republic but he backed off and stayed with Holland, winning U19 and U20 caps.
But today Maguire has told the Herald that he's keen to wear the green shirt again, and as soon as possible.
"If Ireland rang me in the morning and asked me to come and play for them, I would say yes without a thought. I would like to play for the Irish team again but I have no contact at all from them," Maguire said.
"It's a while since I played for Ireland at any level, five years now I think, but I have said all along that I have strong connections with Ireland, through my dad, and Holland, as I was born there, but the connection with Ireland was always strong for me and now I'd like to play for Ireland.
"I am surprised that the FAI have not been in contact with me, especially as Wim Koevermans, who is Dutch, works with the FAI now.
"When I met the FAI last year I said that I was open to playing for Ireland or Holland. I did not rule out the idea of playing for Ireland again, I thought they would have tried to make contact with me but I have heard nothing in months. I can't just turn up and play for Ireland. I have to be named in their squad but hope they do that. I still watch the Irish team, I saw the game against Armenia last week and I'd love to see them qualify for the finals.
"And if they do call me, I'd be very happy to play for them again," added Maguire, who created headlines around this part of the world when he scored for Utrecht in their 4-0 win over Celtic last month which knocked the Bhoys out of Europe and sent Utrecht into the group stages of the Europa League where they face clubs like Liverpool and Napoli.
Born and bred in Holland, Maguire first came on the FAI's radar when his dad contacted the FAI and alerted them to Barry's availability, and he was named in the Republic's squad for an U16 game against Northern Ireland in April 2005.
Maguire played in that game but only as sub for the last 15 minutes, and his family later expressed their disappointment at the lack of game time given to the lad, given that he'd travelled so far to make his debut for Ireland, and that school and other duties would make it more difficult for the Dutch-born youngster to get involved with Ireland compared to home-based players.
That point is backed up by the fact that, of the 11 who started ahead of Maguire that day, not one has progressed to the senior Irish squad, only one (Notts County man Brendan Moloney) is currently involved at U21 level and most are not even playing senior football.
The case for Ireland pursuing Maguire became more relevant when he made his debut for second division side Den Bosch when he was just 16, but the waters at international level were muddied as Maguire opted to play for the Dutch -- including an U19 game against Ireland in Richmond Park in 2007 -- and a lack of communication between the FAI, Maguire and the player's family didn't help matters, the Maguires feeling that Barry had been snubbed with that short sub appearance in 2005 and again by a lack of contact.
Last year it was suggested that he was coming back to the fold when Ireland and Don Givens named him in an U21 squad for a game against Germany, but Maguire pulled out. "I was told at the time that, under FIFA rules, if I had played for Ireland in that game I could not then switch to Holland and I had not yet made up my mind fully. I wanted to be sure in what I was doing so I said I wanted to wait a bit longer before tying myself to Ireland," he says. "I met Wim Koevermans and (Givens) and told them that I was still open to playing for Ireland but I heard nothing more from Ireland."
The 20-year-old has been a key figure for Utrecht this season, playing in eight of their 10 games including five appearances (and one goal) in the Europa League.
"There was a good reaction to the game against Celtic, especially back in Ireland as a lot of my relatives were watching the game," he says. "I hope to play against Napoli next week and Liverpool at the end of the month, and I'd like to play for Ireland too."