'I did not attack FAI' - NI manager O'Neill

Jamal Lewis has been called up by Northern Ireland

Jamal Lewis has been called up by Northern Ireland

In a prepared statement read out at the start of his press conference, O'Neill effectively reiterated his call for the FAI to leave young players already capped by Northern Ireland to develop within the IFA system but he said that he had not meant to suggest that the Republic's association was breaking any rules in facilitating the transfer of players who opted to change their allegiance.

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill has suggested that his Republic of Ireland counterpart, Martin, misunderstood the point that he was attempting to make in relation to the transfer of worldwide allegiance by certain players in a recent newspaper interview. Both players had been linked with global switches to Northern Ireland and it had been rumoured that they could be included in the squad. I've seen a heavy price paid by too many talented young players; players who have transferred... I am not talking about senior players but those aged 17 to 21 born in Northern Ireland.

The 48-year-old wants young players to be allowed develop without having to make a decision on their global future.

"My request extends to any country, not just the Republic of Ireland".

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Last week the younger O'Neill, 48, claimed that the FAI targeted Catholic players born in the north with the Republic coach replying that he was "surprised" by what his namesake had said, declaring that to "bring religion into it is very disappointing".

"If they are remarks on my time here, I think that would be untrue", he said. It is clear to me that given the examples that Martin used in his press conference that he misunderstood the issues that I wish to address.

"Funnily enough, I did meet him at a game quite recently". In fact, it's quite the opposite as Alex Bruce went to him in my time here. I am pleased that he indicated last week that he is now willing to take me up on that.

"We appeal for transparency and fairness at underage level. I think that's something you have to ask Michael about".

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The Irish FA invests thousands of hours and hundreds of thousands of pounds in players in our Club NI programme.

"To reiterate, eligibility is a football issue". With that comes a duty and an obligation to protect those young talents in their most formative and vulnerable years. "What we are asking for is that such a significant decision - one that could affect their entire career - is neither influenced nor made until that player reaches senior age and is made at a time which is in the player's best interest".

But he believes that the Republic of Ireland boss misunderstood his outburst at Abbotstown chiefs over the thorny issue of eligible players switching sides.

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