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O'Neill makes North vow

MICHAEL O'NEILL says he will do all he can to persuade young players from Northern Ireland to play international football for the North instead of switching to the Republic.

The former Shamrock Rovers boss has spoken of his frustration in seeing players like James McClean declare for the Republic, but says he will meet with any player to keep them on board.

"I deal with any player at any age level. I will meet with that player and if necessary I will meet with his parents to outline why I believe they'd be better served to play for Northern Ireland," says the Northern Ireland manager, who has named former Republic of Ireland senior cap Alex Bruce in his squad for next week's friendly against Malta.

"I took this approach with Shane and Patrick McEleney and they both agreed to play for Northern Ireland.

"I did the same with James McClean, but unfortunately I wasn't successful.

"James had already made his decision before I was able to talk to him."