O'Neill hopes to unearth players in the League of Ireland

The Boys in Green boss will attend games in Ireland's national league with the aim of uncovering potential internationals
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill has reiterated his desire to attend League of Ireland games in the hope of unearthing potential international players.

The former Celtic and Aston Villa boss started his own football career with Distillery in the Irish League before signing for Nottingham Forest, while his assistant manager, Roy Keane, followed a similar path, having played for Cobh Ramblers before making the move to Britain.

Speaking at his end-of-year press-conference, O'Neill emphasised the fact that a number of current members of the international squad had started their careers in the League of Ireland, such as James McClean, Kevin Doyle and Seamus Coleman.

"I think someone possibly mentioned here the fact that it might just be a PR exercise if you start coming to matches in the League of Ireland. That might be right," O'Neill told reporters. "But then I was reminded that about seven or eight players currently playing League of Ireland football before they were transferred to England.

"So you never know; there might just be someone who is good enough and playing here, maybe two or three, and who could within a year be playing Premiership football and then hopefully for the Republic."

Meanwhile, Shamrock Rovers have been granted permission from the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) to enter a reserve team into the Airtricity First Division in 2014, according to a report in the Irish Independent.

The Tallaght-based club had been in negotiations with the FAI in recent weeks to discuss the possibility of the club entering a 'development team' into the second-tier, to take the total participants up to eight for 2014.

Elsewhere, Ruaidhri Higgins has admitted his disappointment after not having his contract renewed by Derry City.

However, the 29-year-old midfielder, who had been in his second spell with the club, said that he understood the decision of new Candystripes boss Roddy Collins.

"Honestly nothing surprises me in football now," Higgins told the Londonderry Sentinel. "Roddy has taken over and he wants to make a stamp and he wants his own players in and I have to respect that.

"I can understand a manager wanting to put his own mark on things and that's his decision and I wish him all the best."