Wednesday 21 March 2018

North boss O'Neill hopeful of meeting to discuss row over players​


Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill. Photo: Roberto Bregani/Sportsfile
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill. Photo: Roberto Bregani/Sportsfile

Daniel McDonnell​

Michael O'Neill is hopeful that a meeting with Martin O'Neill to discuss the FAI's recruitment of Northern-born players can still go ahead.

But he believes that the Republic of Ireland boss misunderstood his outburst at Abbotstown chiefs over the thorny issue of eligible players switching sides.

The former Shamrock Rovers boss read out a prepared statement ahead of his squad announcement for their March friendlies yesterday.

He suggested that his main problem with the FAI is the area of communication when it comes to pursuing players that have already played underage for Northern Ireland.

And he felt that his opposite number was missing the point by honing in on Northern Ireland's drafting in of senior pro Alex Bruce.

The FAI's O'Neill was critical of the IFA's man for raising the issue of religion in the interview that kicked off the rumpus, but the Northern Irish manager has taken heart from his refusal to rule out a meeting - although the Derryman was negative about the prospect of any kind of gentleman's agreement being reached.

"I have been asking my counterpart at the FAI for a meeting to discuss these issues for more than eight months," he said. "I am pleased that he indicated last week that he is now willing to take me up on that.

"It is clear to me that given the examples that Martin used in his press conference that he misunderstood the issues that I wish to address. I am not talking about senior players but those aged 17-21 born in Northern Ireland.

"We respect that young players who represent Northern Ireland at underage level have the right to choose to play for the Republic.

"What we are asking for is that such a significant decision is neither influenced nor made until that player reaches senior age and is made at a time which is in the player's best interest."

Irish Independent

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