The Northern Ireland boss hit out at the FAI for what he claimed as their “morally poor” approaches to players in the northern ranks.
O’Neill said he took King to task on the case of Derry City midfielder Aaron McEneff, who represented Northern Ireland up to U19 level only to quit the set-up last year, but King correctly pointed out the player didn’t formalise his switch and is still free to choose either country at senior level. King refuted allegations of him mounting a campaign to headhunt McEneff or other tyros eligible for the Republic, as vindicated by the landmark ruling in 2010 by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) following a case taken by the Irish FA in relation to Daniel Kearns.
“Michael saying we ‘approached’ would suggest it was the FAI who made the initial move for Aaron, which is nonsense,” retorted King as he named a 19-man squad for Saturday week’s opening 2019 Euro qualifier against Kosovo.
“Aaron’s father is from Dublin and Aaron indicated he wanted to come and join us. However, after long discussions, it didn’t come across the line. What Michael said is inaccurate and wrong. I can’t understand how Michael isn’t aware that Aaron is still his player.
“I don’t know what Michael means by the FAI being morally poor. My morals might be different to other peoples. We don’t deal with the politics, we’re only obeying the rules of FIFA. Players and families make their choice, so there is no argument here. It’s a very positive move for other countries too.
“I don’t know why it’s been rehashed – maybe someone is trying to deflect attention from something else.”
Two new English-born players, striker Joe Quigley and defender Connor O’Grady, make the cut for King’s squad with Ryan Manning set to feature for the first time at U21 level. League of Ireland players Ronan Curtis (Derry City) and Ethan Boyle (Finn Harps) also earn first competitive call-ups.
Kieran O’Hara (Manchester United), Liam Bossin (Anderlecht).
Danny Kane (Huddersfield Town), Ryan Sweeney (Stoke City – on loan at Bristol Rovers), Shaun Donnellan (West Bromwich), Corey Whelan (Liverpool), Connor O’Grady (Sheffield Wednesday).
Liam Kinsella (Walsall), Rory Hale (Aston Villa), Josh Cullen (West Ham – on loan at Bradford), Harry Charsley (Everton), Ryan Manning (QPR), Ethan Boyle (Finn Harps), Connor Dimaio (Chesterfield), Olamide Shodipo (QPR - on loan to Port Vale).
Ronan Curtis (Derry City), Reece Grego-Cox (QPR), Jake Mulraney (Inverness CT), Joe Quigley (Bournemouth - on loan at Gillingham).