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'Fluent Irish speaker' Mark Sykes following heart with international transfer from NI according to Kenny

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Mark Sykes: The former Glenavon player has earned 11 U-21 caps for Northern Ireland. Photo: Getty Images

Mark Sykes: The former Glenavon player has earned 11 U-21 caps for Northern Ireland. Photo: Getty Images

Mark Sykes: The former Glenavon player has earned 11 U-21 caps for Northern Ireland. Photo: Getty Images

Stephen Kenny has said the process of recruiting Northern Ireland U-21 midfielder Mark Sykes into the Republic of Ireland set-up is only at its infancy.

But he has asserted that the Belfast native is a fluent Irish speaker that is following his heart by switching sides.

The Oxford player's decision has caused a storm north of the border with new boss Ian Baraclough admitting today that he was 'shocked' by Sykes' defection.

Baraclough said he had spoken with Kenny about the matter but that the discussion would remain private.

Sykes (23) has come through the underage ranks with Northern Ireland and has been around senior squads under Michael O'Neill without getting a cap.

He told his club's website that it was a tough call especially given his previous relationship with Baraclough.

“It was a really difficult decision. I genuinely wish Northern Ireland all the best and know they will do well under their new manager, who I have worked with before and really like," he said.

“The last few weeks have given me time to think about things and I have to do what my heart says.

"The Republic of Ireland are the team I have always dreamed of playing for and I have to try my best to achieve that. I am proud to have been involved with the Northern Ireland team, and have always given it my all, but I had to make a choice and it had to be now.”

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Kenny said: "Mark is someone who expressed an interest in playing for Ireland. He's a good player, a really good player, he's had a good season. He's a fluent Irish speaker. He's very proud of his Irish identity but it (international transfer) is in its infancy really."

The FAI are also waiting for clearance on papers for Rotherham's Chiedozie Ogbene, a forward player of Nigerian heritage who was raised in Cork and has declared for Ireland.


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