'What caught the eye of Martin O’Neill was the interest of Michael O’Neill': Northern Ireland hoping to lure promising defender

'What caught the eye of Martin O’Neill was the interest of Michael O’Neill': Northern Ireland hoping to lure promising defender

Northern Ireland are hoping to convince promising Hearts defender Jimmy Dunne to switch allegiances from the Republic of Ireland.

U21 international Dunne received his first call-up this month, coming in as injury cover for the trip to Denmark, but did not play any part in the scoreless draw.

The Louth-native also qualifies for Northern Ireland through the grandparent rule and previously held talks with Michael O'Neill about the possibility of a switch.

Hearts assistant manager Austin MacPhee is also part of O'Neill's Northern Ireland set-up and he hopes to convince the 21-year-old centre-back, currently on loan from Burnley, to change his mind following the end of Martin O'Neill's reign.

"I think it’s more what’s in Jimmy’s head that’s important. If he just wants to play for the Republic of Ireland then it’s not going to matter," he told The Scotsman.

"I don’t think he caught the eye of Martin O’Neill. What caught the eye of Martin O’Neill was the interest of Michael O’Neill.

"He can still play for Northern Ireland because Martin didn’t put him on the pitch.

"All I can say is the best thing for Jimmy Dunne the footballer would be to play for a country that will give him an opportunity to play for that country. If you look at the profile of the centre-backs for the two countries, and everything else, there would not be a choice to make.

"If someone asked me as a young player if I wanted to play for England when I hoped to play for Scotland it would be very hard, so I understand the dilemma for Jimmy from a purely country point of view, without being someone who has grown up with the other issues involved.

"I told him the Northern Ireland door is still open."

With 39-year-old defensive duo Gareth McAuley and Aaron Hughes pushing on, the addition of Dunne, who has been an ever-present and scored two goals for the third-placed Scottish Premiership side, would be a huge boost.

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