Michael O'Neill remains hopeful that Cliftonville winger Sean Moore will commit his international future to Northern Ireland, despite rumours that he was set to switch allegiances to the Republic of Ireland in the near future.
The 17-year old is one of the brightest prospects on the island of Ireland, lighting up this season in the NIFL Premiership. This has led to interest from several English clubs, with a bid from West Ham reportedly rejected during the January transfer window.
Sean Moore who’s been recently linked with an International switch to Ireland looks a talent!☘️👀
— Rep of Ireland Player Tracker (@reptracker) January 14, 2023
It has also led to questions around his international future. Reports circled a number of weeks ago that Moore was on the verge of declaring for the Republic of Ireland, with the FAI very keen to bring him on board.
He would later be called up by the Republic of Ireland U19s for a training camp in February.
As a result, there was some speculation that Northern Ireland could look to include him in their senior squad for the Euro 2024 qualifiers against San Marino and Finland later this month. However, he was absent from the list that was announced earlier today.
Michael O'Neill hopeful Sean Moore stays with Northern Ireland
Earning a senior competitive cap for Northern Ireland would make a potential switch to the Republic much more difficult for Sean Moore, so it could be seen as telling that he is not involved with Michael O'Neill's squad this month.
In saying that, the manager remains hopeful that he will stay with the nation where he has been capped up to U18 level.
Speaking after he announced his squad, O'Neill said that he is hoping to see the player link up with the Northern Ireland U19 squad for the March window.
I watched Sean last week in the game against Glentoran and was very impressed with how he played - but you are looking at a young player who has had a handful of games, not even a full season in the Irish League behind him.
I think it would be asking a lot to put him into that [senior squad] scenario. I think people would possibly question my motives for doing so, which I don't think would be the right thing for the player...
I think we just need to let this young player enjoy his football and maybe [the press] write a little bit less about him than they have been.
That's the most important thing: he's a young player, he's doing extremely well. I have relatives who are season ticket-holders at Cliftonville and they well me regularly how well he is doing.
On the occasion I watched him he scored two great goals. I thought he was a threat throughout the game. He has been selected for our Under-19 squad which will play in the Elite phase of the tournament, and hopefully he takes up that invitation.
It is expected he will also be included in the Republic of Ireland U19 squad for their qualifiers during the same period.
It will be interesting to see what national side, if any, he plays for in the coming weeks.
Northern Ireland have made a habit of capping young players in competitive games in order to tie them down in recent seasons, so the fact that he is not in the senior squad for their upcoming games could yet be telling.