Thursday 14 December 2017

O'Hara and Duffy poised to bolster Ireland ranks

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

IRELAND'S player pool is set to be boosted on the double with Jamie O'Hara to commit to the cause and talented Everton defender Shane Duffy rocking Northern Ireland by performing an about-turn on his international intentions.

Spurs midfielder O'Hara, currently on loan with Portsmouth, is ready to capitalise on a change in FIFA eligibility rules which allow an individual who has lined out for one country at U-21 level to switch his allegiances and play for another at senior level.

Irish-qualified O'Hara represented England in the European U-21 Championships but is understood to be interested in pulling on the green jersey.

Giovanni Trapattoni refused to mention him by name yesterday, but admitted there was someone on the way -- once the relevant papers are processed -- who is a left-footed player, although not necessarily a left-winger.

When the name of O'Hara -- who fits the description -- was put directly to the Irish boss he smiled and made a quip about not knowing who that was.

"There are others we can wait until next month for," he said. "They play in England, and their father or grandfather is Irish. They can play with us. There is one. We need to prepare the documentation.

"I do not wish to say who the players are because it can then end up in the media and there is pressure. There is one who is particularly interested. He is the left-sided player."

Meanwhile, Duffy's decision to opt for the Republic has shocked football officials north of the border who were convinced they'd got in there first to nab the Derry-born centre-half, who has a father from Donegal.

Northern Irish boss Nigel Worthington was so keen to secure the highly-rated youngster that he brought him to Italy last June for a senior international just six months after his 17th birthday.

Since then, Duffy, who turned 18 in January, has been a regular in the Northern Irish U-21 side and he broke into the Everton first-team picture for the Europa League group games alongside Donegal's rising star, Seamus Coleman. Worthington and Co were confident that he was theirs for the long haul but, yesterday, at the announcement of his squad for next week's friendly with Albania, Worthington admitted that Duffy had contacted him to inform him of a change of heart after being selected for the game where he was expected to make his full debut.

In a bizarre move, the IFA then released the panel for the game with Duffy's name included. However, that ship has now sailed, a further disappointment for the North, who were sore at losing Darron Gibson and have also missed out on Marc Wilson, another who was born in Northern Ireland but committed to the Republic, and was named in the senior squad for the first time yesterday by Trapattoni.

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