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Mark Sykes Explains Why He Didn't Declare For Republic Of Ireland Earlier In His Career

Mark Sykes Explains Why He Didn't Declare For Republic Of Ireland Earlier In His Career
By Gary Connaughton Updated
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When Mark Sykes stepped onto the pitch to make his Ireland debut against Malta, he made a small piece of history. The 25-year old became the first Belfast native since the 1940s to play for the Boys in Green.

The midfielder is certainly deserving of the recognition. He has steadily improved over the last few years, moving from Glenavon to Oxford United in League One, before signing for Bristol City in the Championship last summer.

An Ireland debut always seemed likely from this point, but Sykes wasn't always necessarily destined to play for Stephen Kenny's side. He played his underage football with Northern Ireland, being capped up to U21 level.

However, he would turn down numerous call-ups into their senior setup before switching his international allegiances in 2020.

Mark Sykes explains Republic of Ireland switch

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Mark Sykes experienced plenty of backlash from some Northern Ireland supporters after the news of his switch became public, but it was something he felt he wanted to do.

Speaking to the BBC, he explained the thought process behind the move, admitting that making it at an earlier point in his career was never really an option.

When Stephen Kenny first gave me the call it was a no-brainer. It was maybe a risk in terms of game time, but not a risk in terms of what I wanted to do.

When I was growing up there was never anything for me to be part of regarding the Republic of Ireland.

Our family didn't have a lot of money, they couldn't drive me back and forward to Dublin or wherever a soccer school was set up...

When you're young the nationality side of things doesn't come into it as much, but when you're older you realise 'maybe that is the thing for me'.

I loved my time as part of the Northern Ireland set-up, I'd never say anything bad about it. I didn't play any senior games unfortunately but in a way that benefitted me as I was able to become a Republic of Ireland player.

I came off the social media as I don't need to see the negativity and focused on my football.

Thankfully I got my move to the Championship in the summer so things have been going well for me.

To be in the squad for the next camp and play well for Bristol City are my aims but it's down to me. If you do well on the pitch you'll be successful.

Well said.

Considering his form over the last couple of season, it's highly likely that Mark Sykes will soon add to his tally of international caps.

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