Michael O'Neill urges youngsters to stay with NI after shock win

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Michael O'Neill urges talented young Northern Ireland-born players to stay with the country after his team's shock World Cup qualifier win over Russia.

Michael O'Neill hopes Northern Ireland's win over Russia may convince young players that their international future should be with his squad.

A number of Northern Ireland-born players have declared for the Republic while Liverpool's Ryan McLaughlin has opted to concentrate on club football.

"There's a real opportunity for younger players to get a taste of international football (with us)," said O'Neill.

"The atmosphere in the stadium was absolutely fantastic last night."

O'Neill added: "There were only 12,000 people there but the noise they made and their backing of the team was unbelievable.

"If you don't want to play in front of your own people in that kind of atmosphere, I think that's an issue for the player."

The Good Friday Agreement of 1998 provided for Northern Ireland-born people to claim either British or Irish nationality.

Fifa and the Court of Arbitration then ruled that this meant players born in Northern Ireland could represent the Republic.

James McClean and Darron Gibson are among the players to have taken that option up in recent years.

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Paterson on match-winning header

Several of those who switched had represented Northern Ireland at youth and Under-21 level before changing their international allegiance.

O'Neill has made extensive efforts to convince young players to play international football for Northern Ireland.

Most recently, he held face-to-face discussions with Liverpool defender McLaughlin in an effort to convince him to change his decision to opt out of the international scene to concentrate on his Anfield career.

"We have done a lot of work in that area in terms of keeping everyone on board," O'Neill told BBC Sport Northern Ireland.

"We have a committed bunch of players now and that is all we can ask for.

"When the relationship is strong between the players and the supporters, that's a good recipe for success and hopefully we can continue that."

In Wednesday's game at Windsor Park, O'Neill managed to outwit his Russian counterpart Fabio Capello as the 109th-ranked Northern Ireland team shocked a side currently rated 16th by Fifa.

The shock victory was Northern Ireland's first win in O'Neill's 10 matches at the helm and only the country's third triumph in 33 matches.

O'Neill played down the element of "getting one over" Capello as he instead directed the plaudits towards his "outstanding" players.

"It is nice but the main thing for me is that the players got what they deserved," he said.

"They got a big scalp and for some of them, it was a really big night in terms of their international careers."

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