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Dublin: 9 °C Saturday 23 June, 2018

Northern Ireland boss not concerned about losing players to O'Neill

Michael O’Neill doesn’t see his Derry-born namesake’s appointment being an issue.

O'Neill signed a new contract yesterday.
O'Neill signed a new contract yesterday.
Image: Colm O'Reilly/AP/Press Association Images

NORTHERN IRELAND MANAGER Michael O’Neill doesn’t believe the appointment of Martin O’Neill will result in players opting to switch allegiance.

The likes of James McClean and Marc Wilson made the decision to represent the Republic after lining out at underage level for the North in recent years with the IFA bringing in Gerry Armstrong as elite player mentor to help tackle the issue in 2011.

However, former Shamrock Rovers boss O’Neill, who yesterday signed a two-year extension to his contract to remain in charge until 2016, isn’t concerned that the arrival of his Derry-born namesake will result in young players thinking twice about which team they would like to play for.

“I don’t think it will be an issue at all to be honest,” O’Neill told Sky Sports. “It doesn’t really matter who is in charge of the Republic in terms of the eligibility question.

“My focus, pure and simple, is to make sure that our young players know what we are trying to do as an association and what we are trying to build with our younger players in terms of giving them the chance of having an international career.”

FAI chief executive John Delaney also spoke of player eligibility during his Newstalk interview with Pat Kenny yesterday .

That issue has been there long before Martin has come to manage Ireland,” Delaney said.

“I think the players will make up their own mind. James McClean, Darron Gibson made up their own minds and declared for the Republic more because of their traditional backgrounds. People like McClean, Gibson, young (Marc) Wilson, they’ve always wanted to play for the Republic.”

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Ben Blake

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