Saturday 24 February 2018

Given backs Republic's recruitment of Northern leading lights

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

SHAY GIVEN has backed the recruitment of Northern Ireland-born players into the Republic of Ireland set-up and reckons any player eligible for inclusion from anywhere in the world, or even beyond, should be actively pursued.

The IFA are furious at the loss of Everton defender Shane Duffy, who has a father from Donegal, following on from the defections of Darron Gibson and Marc Wilson when they were teenagers. They are heading for Court of Arbitration for Sport on the matter, but Given says there should be no reticence from the FAI about approaching players from north of the border.

Given's late mother hailed from the North, although he was never approached to play for any of their teams at underage level.

"I could have played for Northern Ireland. My mother was from Castlederg in County Tyrone. If they come from the moon with an Irish grandparent and want to play for us, that's fine," said Given, who extended that sentiment to English-born possibles such as Jamie O'Hara.

"Go back to the Jack Charlton era," he continued. "A lot of player were English-based with Irish grandparents and that was the most successful time for Ireland. We've got to look at all avenues to try and get as many players as we can. It's up to the players to choose who they want to play for. We need to strengthen the squad."

Given would also be in favour of an All-Ireland team similar to other sports which would remove the debate entirely.

"Look at rugby, they are stronger with a 32-county outfit," he said. "I don't know if it's going to happen but you couldn't rule it out."

Meanwhile, Wigan's James McCarthy, who Ireland secured at Scotland's expense, has spoken of his joy at making his senior debut as a 69th-minute substitute against Brazil on Tuesday. The 19-year-old was in no rush to swap jerseys after the game as he looked to keep hold of his first Irish shirt.

"It was brilliant. To be in against players like Kaka and Robinho is a dream come true. I need to keep working hard and hopefully get more recognition. When the manager told me to warm up, I was nervous but when you get on the park you block it out.

"I'll never forget it. I kept my jersey. I wanted a Brazil top, Kaka or Robinho, but I wanted to keep mine too."

Irish Independent

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