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'I played a bit with Northern Ireland and didn't think I would progress'

Ireland’s newest call-up has revealed the reasons behind his change of allegiance.

The midfielder has been rewarded with a senior call-up from Martin O'Neill for next month's qualifiers.
The midfielder has been rewarded with a senior call-up from Martin O'Neill for next month's qualifiers.

BOURNEMOUTH MIDFIELDER EUNAN O’Kane has revealed his reasons for turning his back on Northern Ireland in favour of the Republic of Ireland.

The Derry native played for the Green and White Army up to Under-21 level, but said that the Irish Football Association were no longer interested in him after he was released by Everton in 2009.

“The reasoning behind it was purely from a footballing point of view,” O’Kane told Newstalk.  ”I had played a bit of football with Northern Ireland, and I didn’t think I would progress.

“When I came back from Everton, I didn’t get any opportunities with them. Then the Republic of Ireland came along, and were interested. I wanted to make more of a profile for myself and play at as many levels as I could. It was an easy decision for me.”

After helping Bournemouth to the Championship title, O’Kane received his first call up to the Boys in Green senior squad, and revealed that despite an approach from Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill, his international future always lay with the Republic of Ireland.

“There was a little bit of a mention of it, but it was kind of laughed off. I think he knew I wouldn’t change my mind,” the 25-year-old revealed.

The Republic of Ireland take on Gibraltar on 4 September before returning to Dublin to face Georgia three days later.

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