North admit defeat in fight for Ferguson
Northern Ireland manager Nigel Worthington has effectively admitted defeat in his attempts to stop Newcastle's Shane Ferguson declaring for the Republic of Ireland.
The Derry-born left-sided player won a senior cap for the North in a friendly against Italy in June 2009, but under FIFA rules he is still eligible to switch his international allegiance.
All the indications are that Ferguson is ready to follow the same path as Darron Gibson, Shane Duffy, Marc Wilson and Daniel Kearns and switch to the south, although he has yet to formalise that arrangement with the FAI.
However, a downbeat Worthington revealed yesterday that he had unsuccessfully tried to speak to the 19-year-old.
And, in a further blow to football authorities in Belfast, Preston teenager Daniel Devine has indicated that he wants to play for Ireland as well.
"I've left voicemails, text messages and made random calls to Shane (Ferguson), but at no time did we get a reply," said Worthington.
"It needs to be more black and white -- to put all the indecision to bed once and for all.
"It's frustrating and disappointing that a lot of time, energy, commitment and finance goes into these players over a period of years and then when they are 17, 18, 19 or even 20, there is the opportunity for them, because of the ruling, to vacate to another country. There is a good production line here and to lose them is disappointing."
Under the Good Friday Agreement, anyone born in the North can take British or Irish nationality, and FIFA adopted that legislation to football boundaries.
The Northern Irish authorities took a case to the Court of Arbitration in Sport (CAS) in Switzerland specifically in relation to highly-rated Dundalk winger Kearns, but failed to have the existing rules changed. As a result, the IFA are powerless to prevent further defections.
Worthington was speaking at the announcement of his squad for next week's Carling Nations Cup, where the second set of games kicks off with a North v South meeting on Tuesday.
His 20-man selection includes five players from the Irish League, with promising Ipswich teenager Josh Carson called into the party for the first time.