‘O’Neill will give players a chance’ - states Lafferty

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill.
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill.

BURNLEY’S Danny Lafferty believes that Northern Irish footballers declaring for the Republic of Ireland could be a thing of the past.

The former Derry City full back and current international believes that with Northern Ireland you have more of a chance of playing at the highest level.

“On a personal point of view there is a lot more opportunities with Northern Ireland rather than playing with the Republic of Ireland,” conceded Lafferty.

“With Michael O’Neill as manager, he will give youth a chance and won’t be afraid to bring them into the squad.”

The attack minded left-back has now gone on to make two appearances for Northern Ireland coming up against Azerbaijan and powerhouses of international football Holland.

He has featured at all levels of football for Northern Ireland and is one part of a Londonderry trio – Paddy McCourt and Shane Ferguson - who have featured in recent Northern Ireland squads.

With a lot of players declaring for the Republic of Ireland in the past and Michael O’Neill recently coming out in the press declaring he doesn’t want any more defections.

Lafferty believes that the footballers playing options would be limited if they went to play for the Republic of Ireland.

One of the main features of the Northern Ireland team under Michael O’Neill is the wide selection of players used and considered, with O’Neill scouting and improving his squad selection.

“In my opinion, the majority that declare for the South are more optimistic than realistic. With the North you’ll be given a chance to play.

“Michael’s been doing a lot of work in increasing the size of player pool that he has for selection.

“He has done this through better communications with places like the North West which will no doubt improve and benefit the future campaigns and squads of Northern Ireland.”

With Lafferty playing regular football at a high level, it is expected he will be called up for next month’s Northern Ireland international in Malta, but the talented left-back doesn’t share the same thoughts.

With the former Shamrock Rovers manager not being able to win since the start of his tenure Malta is seen as a perfect opportunity to break that duck.

“I’m not guaranteed that’s up to Michael O’Neill, but it would be nice. I’ve given myself the platform to do that through playing regular football.

“No disrespect to Malta but it’s possibly a game that we should win and would be nice for Michael to get his first win.”

With the upcoming qualifying matches against Russia, Israel and Portugal, he says ‘it would be a nice confidence boost going into the matches at home’.

Many expect Northern Ireland to dominate Malta and Lafferty wants them to do that but says ‘the team wants to go out and get a good result through a good performance.’

The 23-year-old also believes that Northern Ireland have been unlucky in previous matches.

“Results recently haven’t merited the performances that have been put in like not beating Azerbaijan and San Marino where we dominated the matches. We see those matches as four points dropped.

“We got to Portugal and fought well and earned a point and we were unlucky not to get all three.”