Saturday 16 December 2017

O'Neill woe as McAlinden snubs North to declare for Republic

Jamie Holland

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill is surprised by Wolves teenager Liam McAlinden's decision to turn down a call-up for Northern Ireland's U-21s because he wants to play for the Republic of Ireland.

The 19-year-old, who played for Northern Ireland at underage level, joins a number of young players who have taken advantage of a FIFA ruling that allows players affiliated to the North to declare for either side.

O'Neill has made it a priority of his reign to stop the player drain that saw the likes of Darron Gibson, Marc Wilson, Shane Duffy and James McClean opt for the Republic instead of Northern Ireland during Nigel Worthington's tenure, and McAlinden's decision is a setback.


Athlone Town v Bluebell United, Lissywollen, 7.45

A BLISTERING Robert Douglas strike at John Hyland Park forced a replay last Saturday, and Leinster Senior League outfit Bluebell will make the trip to the midlands with equal measures of hope and expectation.

With Trevor Molloy and Tony Griffiths supplying the guile, Bluebell proved a searching test for Roddy Collins' Athlone, who will be eager to be more clinical on home turf.

Ian Sweeney bagged a brace for Athlone in the first match and he will again be a key figure for a full-strength League of Ireland outfit as they seek to avoid an upset against well-organised opponents.

Verdict: Athlone

Irish Independent

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