Michael O'Neill Blasts FAI Over Pursuit Of Northern Irish-Born Players

Michael O'Neill Blasts FAI Over Pursuit Of Northern Irish-Born Players

In what is becoming an annual attack on the FAI, Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill has criticised the association's pursuit of players nurtured by the IFA.

"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.

The FAI have especially raised O'Neill's ire for persuading players to make an international switch only to then not pick them.

"I don’t have a problem with James McClean. He was 22 years of age, he knew what he wanted. I have a problem when it’s a 16, 17 or 18-year-old having to make a decision on his international future," said the 48-year-old.

What is point of asking a player to change his allegiance, to make a decision about his whole international future, and then not pick him?

Daniel Devine of Partick Thistle is a West Belfast boy and would have gone to Euros (2016) with us. Only he can’t play for Northern Ireland as he’s signed an international transfer.

I can list you 10 players who’ve made that decision and have never represented the Republic.


One player O'Neill believes will not choose to represent the Republic over the North is Paul Smyth. The 20-year-old QPR striker comes from a GAA background but O'Neill doesn't see that being a factor.

"You can’t assume just because a player from the North watches GAA that he wants to play for the Republic of Ireland."

Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

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