'Ultimately it comes down to the players' choice' - John Delaney responds to Michael O'Neill criticism

After Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill accused the FAI of needing to address moral issues around player eligibility, John Delaney says it's about player choice
The Chief Executive of the FAI, John Delaney, has hit back at suggestions that the association needs to examine 'moral issues' when approaching eligible players.

The criticism came from Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill, who stated that the FAI should not be approaching players who have previously played for the representative teams of the Irish Football Association (IFA).

Players such as Everton duo Darron Gibson and Shane Duffy have opted to switch allegiance to the Republic of Ireland after playing for Northern Ireland, while Stoke City defender Marc Wilson and Sunderland winger James McClean have also followed a similar path.

However, Delaney stressed that the decision to change association rests ultimately with each individual player, who make their choice for their own personal reasons.

"The way I look at it is we've never asked someone to play for us who didn't want to play for us so the players come and they declare," Delaney told Sky Sports.

He added: "That could be their historic roots too; players like James McClean and Darron Gibson from Derry, they want to play for the Republic of Ireland. They may have played underage football for the North, and I'm respectful of that, but ultimately it comes down to the players' choice."

Delaney also expressed his desire to see one representative team for the island of Ireland, which he feels would remedy any perceived 'moral issues', but conceded that it could only occur in the event of a political re-unification.

"It's something I would personally like to see," said the FAI CEO. "I think anything like that is inextricably linked to a solution to the whole of Ireland. I don't think that can happen outside of that."

Meanwhile, Republic of Ireland goalkeeper coach Alan Kelly has revealed that he has submitted a report to Giovanni Trapattoni on Newcastle United shot-stopper Rob Elliot.

The 26-year-old Magpies custodian was born in England and is eligible to represent Ireland, but has yet to express his commitment to the Boys in Green.

"I watched him in the European games and he's in the Newcastle side. I give the manager the options and he makes the decisions," Kelly told reporters.