WOLVES prospect Liam McAlinden hopes that his international career can now take after months of frustration due to red tape.
The striker made his debut for the Republic of Ireland U21s in their European Championship defeat at home to Montenegro last week, a result that ended Ireland's hopes of qualification for the 2015 finals and means that the final game in the group, away to Germany in September, is a dead rubber for the Irish side.
With qualification now off the agenda, U21 boss Noel King is likely to use the final qualifier to try out new faces ahead of the next campaign and McAlinden is one player who could emerge in the crucial centre-forward position.
His debut for the Republic was long-awaited as the English-born player had declared some time ago but because of his past involvement with Northern Ireland, it took some time for FIFA to process the paperwork needed to allow the player to 'switch' nations.
"I have been waiting a long time to make my debut for the Republic. It took over a year for the clearance to come through from FIFA and it was very frustrating for me," says McAlinden, who is now back at Wolves after a successful spell on loan to Shrewsbury Town earlier this season.
"I was in limbo there for a while as I had made it known that I wanted to play for the Republic but because of the paperwork there was nothing I could do but wait. A year is a long time to be sidelined but now I am cleared to play for Ireland. I got my debut out of the way against Montenegro last week. It was just a pity we lost a game that we needed to win but hopefully I can push on with my career now after all that time," he added.
"I had everything done from my side, I had my Irish passport and all the paperwork I needed but it took so long for FIFA to get it sorted, and it was only about a month ago that I got a call from Noel King to say it had been sorted and I was ok to play."
Born in England, McAlinden had an Irish background via his Belfast-born grandfather, and he took up an offer to play for Northern Ireland, winning U17 and U19 caps. But he began to have doubts about his international future and made the decision to change to the Republic, the matter making headlines north of the border when their senior team boss Michael O'Neill reacted to McAlinden's decision to spurn the offer of a place in Northern Ireland's U21 panel so he could further his career with the Republic.
"My dad's father was from Belfast so that was the connection but my mum's family are all from the south, she grew up in Dublin so I always had a strong link with the Republic," he says.
"It was a hard decision to make, to turn my back on Northern Ireland and I didn't take the decision lightly but I wanted to do it. I spoke to my family long and hard and I knew my mum's side of the family would be delighted to see me play for them."
Recent games for the U21 and senior international sides underlined the need for Ireland to unearth a striker as Robbie Keane moves towards retirement.
McAlinden's club career has yet to take off – currently he is a back-up striker with a club in England's third tier – but he does have potential, and if things go to plan this season he will be in the Championship next term as Wolves look well-placed to win promotion from League One.
"I think I can do well at Wolves, once I get the chance," he says. "I had a spell out on loan to Shrewsbury earlier this season and I did well for them, scored a few goals. I haven't played that much in the last while but I have had a few minutes here and there and the club scene is a bit like Ireland, I am just waiting for a break and a chance to show what I can do."