FAI Chief Executive John Delaney has stated that his association is not on an aggressive campaign to recruit players from Northern Ireland and stressed that the FAI have a good relationship with the IFA.
Speaking on the Good Morning Ulster Radio Show, John Delaney stated his view that it is “really up to the player”, adding that “whoever the player wants to play for, we’ve got to respect his or her choice.”.
Reacting to questions regarding the policy of selecting Irish players such as Darron Gibson, Shane Duffy and Marc Wilson, Delaney dismissed the notion that there was an aggressive recruitment policy. He said: “I think if a player makes it known to us that he wants to play for the Republic, then we’ll look at him, but we’re certainly not on a recruitment campaign.”
The FAI has come under fierce criticism from the IFA and Northern Ireland fans in recent years after players who had played for their youth teams switched to the FAI.
Indeed, in the recent Carling Nations Cup tie between the teams – which the Republic won 5-0 – many Northern Ireland fans used a boycott arranged in opposition to ticket prices to complain about the issue.
Just over a week ago, in the wake of Ireland’s qualification for Euro 2012, the Chairperson of the Amalgamation of Northern Ireland Supporters’ Clubs also hand delivered a letter to FAI headquarters, pleading with the FAI to enter into an agreement with the IFA whereby they would not select northern born Irish nationals.
The IFA have also been quite active, appointing Gerry Armstrong as ‘Elite Player Mentor’ and the former Northern Ireland international has been very critical of the FAI and players who have opted not to play for the IFA.
When asked what he thought of the IFA’s approach, Delaney said: “That’s up to the IFA, and I respect the IFA if they want to appoint Gerry Armstrong. That’s a matter for themselves.”
“Our approach is quite simple. You want the players who want to play for you. We don’t want to coerce them or make them play for us. That’s our approach and our approach is very simple.
“If a player declares for the Republic of Ireland, then we’ll assess them and bring them into the squad if they’re up to sufficient quality.
“It’s a matter for the player to make his or her decision and at that stage then, we’ll take it from there.”