NI manager O'Neill critical of FAI communication on players switching allegiance

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'I did not attack FAI' - NI manager O'Neill

Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill believes the FAI must communicate better with the IFA as the row over players switching allegiance continues.

O'Neill said last week that the FAI was targeting Catholic players to transfer their allegiance to the Republic having represented NI at youth level.

Republic counterpart Martin O'Neill was 'disappointed' with the comments.

Michael O'Neill stated on Monday that he was critical of the FAI as there is "no dialogue with our (IFA) coaches".

O'Neill read out a prepared statement after naming his squad for the friendly against South Korea later this month.

He added: "During a recent interview I was questioned about the issue of eligibility. Contrary to how it has been reported, I did not attack the FAI (Football Association of Ireland), I merely responded to the questions I was asked.

"For me, eligibility is not, and should not, be a political issue. Nor should it be a religious issue. For me, eligibility is a football issue.

Martin O'Neill and Michael O'Neill
Martin O'Neill and Michael O'Neill have discussed the issue of players switching allegiance

"The FAI correctly states it has broken no rules in approaching young Northern Ireland players requesting they switch allegiance to the Republic of Ireland.

"My concerns lie specifically with players aged 17-21 in the underage set-ups. I've seen a heavy price paid by too many talented young players; players who have transferred their allegiance to a country that ultimately doesn't rate them, nor play them."

James McClean, Shane Duffy, Darron Gibson, Eunan O'Kane and Marc Wilson all played youth football for Northern Ireland before opting to represent the Republic.

The Northern Ireland manager has suggested a solution to the issue and believes Martin O'Neill misunderstood his concerns.

He said: "My request therefore, to the FAI and to any other association, is this - that if a young player has chosen to represent Northern Ireland at U17, U19 or U21 level, that he is allowed to develop in these crucial formative years without the responsibility of having to make a decision regarding his international allegiance that is binding for the rest of his career.

"My request extends to any country, not just the Republic of Ireland.

James McClean
James McClean represented NI at youth level before switching to play for the Republic of Ireland

"I have been asking my counterpart at the FAI for a meeting to discuss these issues for more than eight months. I am pleased that he indicated last week that he is now willing to take me up on that.

"It is clear to me that given the examples that Martin used in his press conference that he misunderstood the issues that I wish to address. I am not talking about senior players, but those aged 17-21 born in Northern Ireland.

"We respect that young players, who represent Northern Ireland at underage level have the right to choose to play for the Republic of Ireland.

"What we are asking for is that such a significant decision - one that could affect their entire career - is neither influenced nor made until that player reaches senior age and is made at a time which is in the player's best interest."

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