FAI deny ‘tapping up’ claims

THE FAI yesterday denied Gerry Armstrong’s claim that Northern Ireland players as young as 15 had been ‘tapped up’ by the Republic.

Armstrong, a former Northern Ireland great who was recently appointed as the Irish Football Association’s elite player mentor, first made the claim in the Radio Ulster documentary ‘Does the Cap Fit’ on Sunday and added yesterday that the issue was a moral one.

“I think it is a problem because at 15 or 16, kids should be allowed to get on with their football and enjoy their football without another added pressure from a political point of view,” Armstrong said. However the FAI hit back, denying they had ever approached a player from the North.

“It is a person’s prerogative if they want to play for the Republic of Ireland. There is not an ongoing campaign by the FAI to recruit Northern Ireland players, but it is an option if they want to make themselves available for selection,” an FAI spokesman said.

Last year, the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled against the Irish FA’s bid to prevent Northern Ireland-born players opting for the Republic.

The Good Friday Agreement of 1998 provided for Northern Ireland-born people to claim either British or Irish nationality.

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