Darren Gibson and Shane Duffy led the charge. They trundled down the road from Belfast to Dublin and into the eye of a footballing storm. As James McClean becomes the latest to declare for the Republic having previously turned out for the North, one player has decided he won’t be joining them.
Back in April 2011, the newest name touted to convert to the south was Shane Ferguson at Newcastle. In a reversal of the trend this week, however, the Derryman will report for duty with Michael O’Neill’s senior squad for Wednesday’s meeting with Norway.
Ireland U-21 manager Noel King waded into the debate again last weekend telling the IFA to accept the rules as he travelled to inspect the latest potential recruit, Eunan O’Kane at Torquay.
The Republic camp is busy welcoming its newest addition, Sunderland’s James McClean. The former Derry City starlet becomes the latest player to switch allegiance from Northern Ireland to the Republic in what is becoming more and more of a contentious issue between the two governing bodies on this island.
McClean played for the North’s U21 side on seven occasions and pulled out of a senior call-up for a game against the Faroe Islands. He has been keen to express his delight at his inclusion in the Republic squad this week even taking BBC’s Match of the Day to task for describing him as Northern Irish.
Last year, 20-year-old Ferguson was merely the next on an increasingly long list of players expected to declare for the southern neighbours when he pulled out of a squad named by Nigel Worthington.
Ferguson has been capped at U-21 level for the North and also appeared for the senior team in a friendly game against Italy in 2009.
At the time IFA president Jim Shaw was quoted as saying: “It would be another disappointment for us if Shane decides to go.”
However, going against the latest trend, Ferguson will be in Belfast this week for former Shamrock Rover’s manager Michael O’Neill’s first game in charge.