Martin O'Neill Hits Out At "Catholic" Claim By Michael O'Neill
Michael O'Neill caused a stir this week with his comments on the Republic of Ireland's recruiting of underage players from the North, in which he claimed that the FAI only targeted Catholic players.
The FAI ever only approach one type of player: Catholic," O'Neill told The Irish Daily Mail's Philip Quinn.
O'Neill, who just recently signed a new four-year deal with the IFA, wants to form a "gentleman's agreement" with his Republic of Ireland counterpart Martin O'Neill, one which would mean that if a player represents Northern Ireland between the ages of 17 to 21, the FAI would not ask him to switch allegiance.
Speaking to the online and broadcast media at a squad announcement today, Martin O'Neill responded by saying that he had a "problem" with his counterparts comments.
What I have a problem with was the unexpected nature of the comments.
I think Michael would admit this, that I haven’t even taken one player away from him at senior level.
I met him at a game quite recently, at Fulham, and we had a very convivial conversation. He never mentioned these points. I wish he had.
So they came as a bit of a surprise.
I have had a conversation with him since. He has admitted that I have not taken a senior player. In fact, it’s quite the opposite as he has taken Alex Bruce.
Specifically regarding the Catholic comment, O'Neill said he was "very disappointed".
To actually talk about religion and bring religion into it…I think that’s something you’ll have to ask Michael about.
I’ve played for Northern Ireland 60-odd times, captained them a number of times during their most successful period.
Not only had we great players playing from both sides of the political divide but we had great camaraderie, so it’s very disappointing.
So the irony in all of this is that I have not taken one player from him, which he has admitted.
I have never chosen a player other than on merit, and that will always be the case, and I don’t think I have anything more to say on it.
O'Neill was speaking as he announced a 40-man squad for the friendly with Turkey at the end of the month. Seamus Coleman returns, and will rejoin a relatively unfamiliar squad featuring only one outfield player over the age of 30 (Shane Long).
Declan Rice, Darragh Lenihan, Derrick Williams, Greg Cunningham, Enda Stevens, John Egan, Liam Kelly, Scott Hogan and Seani Maguire.
The full squad is here.