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Anger up North as Duffy becomes latest to defect to Republic

CELEBRATIONS for the FAI, but football officials and fans in Northern Ireland are up in arms over the defection to the Republic of Ireland of Everton teenager Shane Duffy.

The Derry-born defender was on the bench for Northern Ireland in a senior international last year but didn't play. He has been capped at youth level for the North and yesterday he was initially named in Nigel Worthington's squad for a senior game in Albania next month.

But that squad release came with an asterisk beside Duffy's name stating: "Northern Ireland manager Nigel Worthington named Everton defender Shane Duffy in his squad for the Albania game; however the player has opted to play for the Republic of Ireland."

Duffy's defection to the Republic -- his dad, Brian, is from Letterkenny in Co Donegal so there is no issue over the player's eligibility to play for the South -- has been rumoured for some time, but it became fact in recent days following contact on behalf from the FAI.

It's believed that Everton boss David Moyes last week phoned Liam Brady to inform him that Duffy had made up his mind and wanted to play for the Republic.

Aggrieved

Duffy is still only 18 and has made just two appearances for Everton this season so he may have to bide his time before winning a senior cap. He may have to play for the Republic's U21s before the senior call-up comes, while it's certain that he would have played against Albania for the North next month if he had stuck with them, as Aaron Hughes and his Fulham team-mate Chris Baird are both rested.

But either way his recruitment is a coup for the FAI and a bitter blow for the North, who are already aggrieved to see two Northern-born players (Darron Gibson and Marc Wilson) in the Republic's senior squad for the March friendly with Brazil.

"There is a loophole, where a player can walk away after a lot of time and investment has gone in. Until it's resolved, that's where we are," said Northern Ireland senior boss Nigel Worthington.

"Shane has represented Northern Ireland all the way through from a very early age to the U21s.

"I am a big admirer of Shane. I like him as a player and a lot of work has gone in with different coaches. I am disappointed with the situation as he is going to be a very good player.

"Shane has now decided after discussing the matter with his family to represent the Republic. As a manager I have got to respect that."

The Duffy affair will stoke up anger North of the border, with Northern Ireland fans and IFA officials complaining that the FAI are actively poaching their players.

Poaching

Only last week there was anger on a smaller scale when it was announced that two other Northern-born players has opted to play for the Republic as they were named in a squad for an FAI training camp in Bisham Abbey.

Lisburn-born defender Daniel Devine, who is making good progress in the reserves at Preston North End, was named in the Republic's panel along with the very highly rated West Ham striker Daniel Kearns.

That squad also included Derry City man Shane McEleney who, along with his brother Patrick who is on the books at Celtic, have opted to play for the Republic despite being born north of the border in Derry.

"We're delighted to get hold of Kearns at West Ham, he is a real prospect," said an FAI source.

"A lot of work went into that case, there was a lot of paperwork to be done with UEFA and FIFA to make sure he could play for us and it was above board as he had already played for Northern Ireland. But he's a great one to have, so is Devine at Preston."

The IFA have accused the FAI of poaching their players for some time, back to the 1990s when players like Ger Crossley, Ger Doherty and Mark McKeever opted to play for the Republic at underage level. But the issue took on new significance when Darron Gibson "defected" to the Republic and won his first senior cap under Steve Staunton in 2007.