The Times: Paul Smyth leans towards Northern Ireland

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The Times: Paul Smyth leans towards Northern Ireland

Post by Virginia_R » Mon Apr 30, 2018 9:28 am

Martin O’Neill is an occasional visitor to the Queens Park Rangers training ground near Heathrow airport, usually to watch an under-23 match from the vantage point of the players’ canteen, but if he is going to introduce himself to Paul Smyth, then he would need to do so pretty quickly.

The 20-year-old QPR winger, name-checked frequently in the row over eligibility between the Republic of Ireland manager and his Northern Ireland counterpart, Michael O’Neill, seems sold on the idea of playing his international football in Belfast rather than Dublin. When he made his senior debut for Northern Ireland in March against South Korea in a friendly game and celebrated scoring his first international goal with a joyous somersault, it was taken as a fait accompli that Smyth was a Northern Ireland player. It is, however, not quite as simple as that.

The questions will only be answered definitively when Smyth plays in a competitive game or states clearly what his decision is. Instead, some people are trying to put words in his mouth and thoughts in his mind. A half hour spent in his company at the training ground on Thursday indicated that while Smyth was leaning heavily towards Northern Ireland he wasn’t quite there yet. For instance, what would he should the Republic of Ireland manager call and invite him into the squad?

“I don’t know,” Smyth replied. “I don’t really think about it to be fair.”

At the moment Smyth is too busy enjoying the novelty of breaking into the QPR first team having only moved from Belfast to London last summer. Becoming a pawn in the turf war between Northern Ireland and the Republic is not something he is interested in.

“It is kind of unfair to be brought in like that,” Smyth said. “I don’t like talking about it. Nowadays, if you say something wrong you are in a lot of trouble. I just like to keep myself to myself and get on with it playing football.”

Even before Smyth scored that excellent goal against South Korea, Michael O’Neill said that “I don’t have a huge fear of Paul going anywhere” and if the Northern Ireland manager is only slightly worried, then he has probably got it about right.

In Dublin, there was an assumption in some quarters that because Smyth attended Republic matches as a boy and played gaelic football for an Antrim club, Lamh Dhearg, he would come running with a click of the fingers. Not so. Ever since moving out of west Belfast as a seven-year-old into the countryside with his parents, Smyth has followed his own path. His local football club in Crumlin near Lough Neagh folded when he was about 15, so he joined Linfield, where he broke into the first team when David Healy became manager.

“As long as you play for that shirt and give 100% the fans loved you. Whether I play for Cliftonville or Crusaders or Linfield, that is what I do,” Smyth says.

Smyth made Healy enjoy coming to work to take training and the Northern Ireland legend was quickly on to his old friend in charge of the national team. At the same time, Smyth started progressing nicely through the Northern Ireland under-age teams.

“I have been playing with Northern Ireland since the under 16s and I have loved it ever since. I didn’t hear anything from the Republic. Growing up in Northern Ireland as well kind of edged me forward towards them. At the minute I am thinking of playing for Northern Ireland because of how much I have enjoyed it and how well they have looked after me. I went to the Euros with Michael O’Neill and the first team and learned a lot from the pros playing there. That has been massive for me.”

QPR have also been good for Smyth since he arrived last summer for a fee of £200,000. As the club increasingly turns towards young players after reining in spending, the manager Ian Holloway has given Smyth his chance. Whereas Healy tried to stop it, Holloway even allows Smyth to do his spectacular celebratory somersault.

“I did it on the trampoline as a kid and then I decided to try it on the pavement. I landed on my head a few times but it came off.”

Freedom has come in other ways too. He enjoys being one of the crowd when he travels to home games and elsewhere on the train. “I like staying in the shadows, because back home it was just constant. People I had never heard of would come up to me on the street and have a chat. It was great, but here I have anonymity.”

Some people are taking notice, of course, as Smyth also scored the winner on his club debut, in a 2-1 win against Cardiff on New Year’s Day. Martin O’Neill, who has been closely watching another promising young QPR player, Ryan Manning from Galway, spotted Smyth’s talent in the winger’s sixth game against Derby County back in February. However, the Republic’s manager was already well behind, as he acknowledged when he remarked that “Michael has done a lot of work with him”.

Moreover, the Republic’s manager sympathises when the younger O’Neill complains of player poaching and has pointed out on several occasions that none of the players born in Northern Ireland who now play for the Republic defected during his time as manager. For it to happen now would therefore be remarkable. Martin O’Neill said he would speak to Smyth if the player approached him, but he wasn’t expecting that to happen. Nor would he be one to ring making promises that he couldn’t keep.

“It’s wherever I am going to get playing really,” says Smyth of his international plans. “I don’t even think I am going to get into that Northern Ireland team because it is so strong. But I will keep working hard, keep my head down and whenever my chance comes I will try to take it.” Northern Ireland’s summer tour of central America will provide that. Should he continue to do well, Smyth would probably then win a competitive cap in September, after which nobody will be able to second guess any more.

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Re: The Times: Paul Smyth leans towards Northern Ireland

Post by QPR-NI » Mon Apr 30, 2018 10:22 am

The Republic of Ireland's nauseating sectarian targeting of NIs players is a shameful disgrace that FIFA need to do something about.

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Re: The Times: Paul Smyth leans towards Northern Ireland

Post by UxbridgeR » Mon Apr 30, 2018 12:19 pm

In what sense is it "sectarian" ?
Are headphones getting bigger, or are idiots getting smaller ?

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Re: The Times: Paul Smyth leans towards Northern Ireland

Post by Virginia_R » Mon Apr 30, 2018 12:19 pm

I think you utterly missed the point. We are not.

You lads have been a hit and miss 'B' side, in fairness.

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Re: The Times: Paul Smyth leans towards Northern Ireland

Post by n22hoop » Mon Apr 30, 2018 12:27 pm

QPR-NI wrote:
Mon Apr 30, 2018 10:22 am
The Republic of Ireland's nauseating sectarian targeting of NIs players is a shameful disgrace that FIFA need to do something about.
Blimey, this is a bit strong. Would you care to expand?
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Re: The Times: Paul Smyth leans towards Northern Ireland

Post by QPR-NI » Mon Apr 30, 2018 5:10 pm

Virginia_R wrote:
Mon Apr 30, 2018 12:19 pm
I think you utterly missed the point. We are not.

You lads have been a hit and miss 'B' side, in fairness.

They only target the Catholic players. How much more sectarian than that can you get?

The hit and miss b side have been consistently above the Republic in the world rankings for several years and missed out on the World Cup through song cheated by a terrible refereeing decision and playing against the best team in the play offs Switzerland.

The Republic got humiliated by a crappy Denmark team IIRC.


AS the banner says " HANDS OFF OUR KIDS".

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Re: The Times: Paul Smyth leans towards Northern Ireland

Post by Lee Gib » Mon Apr 30, 2018 6:42 pm

QPR-NI wrote:
Mon Apr 30, 2018 5:10 pm

AS the banner says " HANDS OFF OUR KIDS".
Historically a slogan that hasn't really worked with the catholics

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Re: The Times: Paul Smyth leans towards Northern Ireland

Post by patrickqpr » Mon Apr 30, 2018 6:51 pm

Historically a slogan that hasn't really worked with the catholics

:lol:

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Re: The Times: Paul Smyth leans towards Northern Ireland

Post by Virginia_R » Mon Apr 30, 2018 7:33 pm

QPR-NI wrote:
Mon Apr 30, 2018 5:10 pm
Virginia_R wrote:
Mon Apr 30, 2018 12:19 pm
I think you utterly missed the point. We are not.

You lads have been a hit and miss 'B' side, in fairness.

They only target the Catholic players. How much more sectarian than that can you get?

The hit and miss b side have been consistently above the Republic in the world rankings for several years and missed out on the World Cup through song cheated by a terrible refereeing decision and playing against the best team in the play offs Switzerland.

The Republic got humiliated by a crappy Denmark team IIRC.


AS the banner says " HANDS OFF OUR KIDS".

Oooh, touchy. Nordies baiting - like shooting sectarian fish in a barrel. The 17th century would like you back, mate.

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Re: The Times: Paul Smyth leans towards Northern Ireland

Post by dm » Mon Apr 30, 2018 7:42 pm

Virginia_R wrote:
Mon Apr 30, 2018 9:28 am
“I did it on the trampoline as a kid and then I decided to try it on the pavement. I landed on my head a few times but it came off.”
Bloody hell that sounds painful!

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Re: The Times: Paul Smyth leans towards Northern Ireland

Post by UxbridgeR » Tue May 01, 2018 9:17 am

Lee Gib wrote:
Mon Apr 30, 2018 6:42 pm
QPR-NI wrote:
Mon Apr 30, 2018 5:10 pm

AS the banner says " HANDS OFF OUR KIDS".
Historically a slogan that hasn't really worked with the catholics
:lol: naughty
Are headphones getting bigger, or are idiots getting smaller ?

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Re: The Times: Paul Smyth leans towards Northern Ireland

Post by QPR-NI » Tue May 01, 2018 10:02 am

Virginia_R wrote:
Mon Apr 30, 2018 7:33 pm
QPR-NI wrote:
Mon Apr 30, 2018 5:10 pm
Virginia_R wrote:
Mon Apr 30, 2018 12:19 pm
I think you utterly missed the point. We are not.

You lads have been a hit and miss 'B' side, in fairness.

They only target the Catholic players. How much more sectarian than that can you get?

The hit and miss b side have been consistently above the Republic in the world rankings for several years and missed out on the World Cup through song cheated by a terrible refereeing decision and playing against the best team in the play offs Switzerland.

The Republic got humiliated by a crappy Denmark team IIRC.


AS the banner says " HANDS OFF OUR KIDS".

Oooh, touchy. Nordies baiting - like shooting sectarian fish in a barrel. The 17th century would like you back, mate.
The only sectarianism is from the RoI trying to tap up young Catholic players.


I suppose if you're going to get embarrassed at home by Denmark you need all the help you can get.

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Re: The Times: Paul Smyth leans towards Northern Ireland

Post by Esox Lucius » Tue May 01, 2018 10:10 am

Te Republic have better supporters and a great atmosphere at games so that may influence his choices. Also growing as team mates with Shodipo & Manning may prove decisive.
Last edited by Esox Lucius on Tue May 01, 2018 10:12 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Times: Paul Smyth leans towards Northern Ireland

Post by UxbridgeR » Tue May 01, 2018 10:11 am

Blue touchpaper lit.......
Are headphones getting bigger, or are idiots getting smaller ?

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Re: The Times: Paul Smyth leans towards Northern Ireland

Post by Virginia_R » Tue May 01, 2018 11:00 am

QPR-NI wrote:
Tue May 01, 2018 10:02 am
Virginia_R wrote:
Mon Apr 30, 2018 7:33 pm
QPR-NI wrote:
Mon Apr 30, 2018 5:10 pm



They only target the Catholic players. How much more sectarian than that can you get?

The hit and miss b side have been consistently above the Republic in the world rankings for several years and missed out on the World Cup through song cheated by a terrible refereeing decision and playing against the best team in the play offs Switzerland.

The Republic got humiliated by a crappy Denmark team IIRC.


AS the banner says " HANDS OFF OUR KIDS".

Oooh, touchy. Nordies baiting - like shooting sectarian fish in a barrel. The 17th century would like you back, mate.
The only sectarianism is from the RoI trying to tap up young Catholic players.


I suppose if you're going to get embarrassed at home by Denmark you need all the help you can get.
You have a ridiculous definition of sectarianism, to say the least. Let me remind you that, thanks to the Good Friday Agreement, anyone up North has the choice of whether they feel Irish or British: as a result, anyone up there has the right to an Irish passport/citizenship. Some players - the likes of McClean, for example - felt more comfortable in declaring for the Republic than for the North. And quite frankly, after watching the likes of Lennon and Anton Rogan being relentlessly barracked by sectarian yobs for the crime for being Celtic players, who'd blame them for playing for a team that they have an emotional association towards? It is entirely their right do so: I suspect strongly that if the current rules had been in place years ago, the likes of Martin O'Neill, Pat Jennings and Gerry Armstrong would have declared for the Republic, given their backgrounds - Northern Ireland was a cold house for Catholics/Nationalists for a very, very long time. Let's not forget that night at Windsor Park in Nov 1993, shall we - the raw sectarian hatred from the Northern supporters that night was shocking to say the least.

The ironic thing is - we down South have a soft spot for the Norn Iron team. Definitely backed you in 1982, 1986 and at Euro 2016.

In defence of the IFA, they did note the sectarian problem at N. Ireland games and have made really positive steps in that regard. I hope it continues.

Yes, the FAI did for a period use the opportunity to go after players from the North - but they would have and did get short shrift from players from Unionist/Protestant backgrounds, who after all identify with playing for the North. And quite rightly so. It's their choice.

At the end of the day, given the mixed nature of loyalties up North, it is really up to the individual as to where their loyalties lie.

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