The Republic of Ireland have stolen a march in the international tug of war over highly rated Belfast-born Seán Moore as he was today included in a 36-strong squad for a training camp with the Republic’s U-19s, along with Eoin Kenny, son of Ireland senior team boss Stephen, who has been capped at U-18 level by the North.
Attacking midfielder Moore (17) has broken into the first team with Cliftonville this season with form attracting interest from cross-channel clubs like West Ham, Newcastle United, Crystal Palace and Celtic.
The IFA are desperate to claim the player, capped by the North at U-18 level in a non-competitive game, who has scored three times in 21 games for league leaders Cliftonville this season.
Last week, Moore was named in the Northern Ireland U-18 schools squad for a tournament which includes a game against the Republic next month.
But the Republic’s U-19 boss Tom Mohan included Moore in his squad for a “home-based assessment day” ahead of the Elite round of qualification for the Euros, also next month, a sign that the FAI appear to have recruited Moore despite that keen interest from the IFA.
Because schools international football is not under the UEFA banner, players are free to move within different jurisdictions. In recent months, Dundalk teen Eoin Kenny has played for Northern Ireland at U-18 level but also lined out for the Republic's schools international team and was in the same Republic U-19 panel today alongside Moore.
Mark Sykes (Bristol City) made history last year when he became the first Belfast native to play for the Republic in five decades, capped by Kenny away to Malta.
Michael O’Neill, who recently returned to manage the Northern Ireland senior side for a second spell, has stated his desire to stop the loss of Northern-born players to the Republic.
"As we know, anyone that's eligible for us obviously will have the choice of the country that they're born in and they'll have the choice of the Republic of Ireland as well. So it's an aggressive market and we have to make sure that we're in it," he has said.