Martin O'Neill rejects insinuation the FAI target Catholic players from Northern Ireland

Thu, Mar 08 2018

O'Neill spoke to his counterpart following his comments in the media. Credit: Peter O'Doherty

Martin O’Neill responded to Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill’s recent remarks about the FAI’s recruitment strategy and his perception only Catholic players from the North are targeted.

O’Neill expressed his surprise at his fellow former Northern Ireland international's comments following the announcement of his Republic of Ireland squad for an upcoming friendly with Turkey.

“I have no problem with having a discussion, but I do have a problem with the unexpected nature of the comments,” O'Neill told reporters.

“If they are remarks on my time here, they would be untrue. I think Michael has admitted I haven’t even taken a player away from him at senior level.”

The Republic of Ireland manager went further, explaining that he has recently met Michael O’Neill, who decided against bringing up the conversation then, in person, with the Ireland manager.

“Funnily enough, I met him quite recently at a game, watching Fulham at Craven Cottage. We had a very convivial conversation.

“He never mentioned these points. I wish he had have done, privately. It came as a surprise. I had a conversation with him since. He admitted I’ve never taken a player.

“It’s quite the opposite. He’s taken Alex Bruce from us during my time here,” O’Neill explained.

When asked about Michael O’Neill’s comments regarding the FAI only choosing Catholic players, Martin O’Neill said he has never chose a player on anything other than merit and that. ultimately, the choice does come down to the player.

“I have no problem having a conversation with him about underage level. To talk about bringing religion into it, you’d have to ask him.”

“I’ve played for Northern Ireland over 60 times, captained them many times, through a successful period too when we had both Catholics and Protestants playing, from both sides of the religious divide.”

Martin O’Neill also added how Ireland have too lost players, citing the example of Marcus McGuane to England.

“We’ve lost players. The young lad [McGuane] who made his debut for Barca last night, played for us underage, has switched to England. You have to accept that he’s gone on to choose England.”