Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill says he will have a talk with Cliftonville striker Ronan Hale about international call-up if Reds ace changes allegiances from the Republic of Ireland

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Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill admits he is open to the idea of having a conversation with Ronan Hale about the possibility of the Cliftonville striker changing his international allegiance.

Belfast-born Hale has been capped at international level by the Republic of Ireland, winning caps at both U19 and U21 level.

The 25-year-old was in sparkling form for the Reds last season as his 22 goals in all competitions helped Jim Magilton's side end their 45-year wait to win the Irish Cup.

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O'Neill rejected claims that Hale was on the stand-by list for Northern Ireland's upcoming international friendlies against Spain and Andorra on June 8 and June 11 respectively.

Cliftonville striker Ronan Hale enjoyed a fruitful season with Reds after netting 22 goalsCliftonville striker Ronan Hale enjoyed a fruitful season with Reds after netting 22 goals
Cliftonville striker Ronan Hale enjoyed a fruitful season with Reds after netting 22 goals

However, he did say that he would be interested in speaking to Hale about a potential call-up - provided he pledged his international career to Northern Ireland.

"No because he has played for the Republic of Ireland," said O'Neill when asked if he considered calling-up Hale.

"I wouldn’t pick a player unless he had committed to do an international transfer. The fact is we could pick him and play him but it wouldn’t really count for anything but I don’t think that would send the right message to the rest of the squad.

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"That might be a conversation that Ronan and I can have. I’ve had a couple of calls about him from clubs in the UK.

"He has had a great season and I was here for the Irish Cup final when he had a great day.

"Ronan has not been in our squads from a young age. He has been in the Republic squads from a young age but he is still eligible to play for us if he opts to do that."

O’Neill has welcomed Jonny and Corry Evans back into his Northern Ireland squad for the June friendlies.

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The return of the Evans brothers are among six changes to O’Neill’s squad from March, with Ethan Galbraith, Dale Taylor and Aaron Donnelly coming in while 18-year-old Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper Pierce Charles, brother of Southampton midfielder Shea, has received his first senior call-up.

But O’Neill is without two experienced players in Paddy McNair and George Saville. McNair is due to get married on the day of the Spain fixture, while Saville has been nursing a calf problem and will take a break.

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