Worthington says 'no' to calls for a united Ireland
Northern Ireland boss Nigel Worthington has dismissed the chances of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland combining on the world stage.
"Speaking from my own point of view here, the direct answer to the question is no," he said as the Carling Nations Cup was launched in Dublin's Aviva Stadium yesterday. "Northern Ireland is a different country to the Republic of Ireland. You have your own team, you have your own nation. It's as simple as that.
"I know that's not the answer you want to hear. I think every nation is entitled to their own team. I feel very strongly that the Republic has their team, we've got our team, Scotland and Wales and so on...
"It's like the Olympic Games, that's fine. I've no issue with that. But when it comes to the day-to-day stuff I think everybody is entitled to themselves."
Northern Ireland qualified for successive World Cup finals in 1982 and 1986, while the Republic qualified for the last of its three World Cup finals in 2002, with their three previous major championship appearances arriving within a six-year period from 1988 to 1994.
"I think there are a lot of principles on either side whereby we want to have recognition for our own country," said Worthington. "I think that is only fair and that's me speaking from my own heart."
The recurring debate was sparked three years ago when the Republic's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern, told the Soccer Writers Association of Ireland's annual banquet that the "the time is now right for both football organisations to sit down together for serious discussions on the basis that together they can achieve so much more."
Meanwhile, Scotland manager Craig Levein has said he will not close the door on the pursuit of James McCarthy, the Glasgow-born Wigan midfielder who remains eligible for the Scots, despite already receiving an international friendly cap for Ireland.
Richard Dunne has contacted Giovanni Trapattoni to reassure him about his recovery from a knee injury as he prepares for Aston Villa's trip to Tottenham this afternoon, as Ireland begin their build-up to next week's Euro 2012 qualifiers against Russia and Slovakia.