Martin O'Neill responds to Michael O'Neill's 'Catholic' claim
It was only a matter of time before Martin O'Neill issued his response.
Speaking to the Irish Daily Mail, Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill made a big claim regarding the Republic of Ireland national team. He said,
"The FAI only ever approach one type of player: Catholic.”
He clarified that he had no problem with the likes of James McClean declaring for the Boys In Green. His issue was with what he perceived as players switching allegiances due to pressure from the association.
"You get people saying that it's okay for Catholics to play for Northern Ireland and, yes, it is. But it's also okay for Irish people to play for Ireland." @JamesMcC_14 @seamiecoleman23 https://t.co/LFBJd9bxVA
— SportsJOE (@SportsJOEdotie) March 6, 2018
Martin O'Neill has since responded to the claim to BBC. He cited Alex Bruce as an example of a player who went the other way. Although Bruce was twice capped by the Republic, he was able to represent Northern Ireland due to those games being friendlies.
Michael O'Neill bringing up religion was particularly perplexing for the Ireland boss. He denied targetting any players who have represented the Green and White Army, but argued that, at the end of the day, it is the players who decide which team they wish to represent.
"To actually bring religion into it. I think that's something you will have to ask Michael about."
"Yeah, very disappointed to hear that. I think the most important issue from this here is one - I've never chosen a player on anything other than merit and two, really, really important is it is down to the player. It is the player's choice for these issues."
James McClean, Shane Duffy, Darron Gibson, Eunan O'Kane and Marc Wilson all played for Northern Ireland at youth level before opting to represent the Republic.