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Michael O’Neill: I’m open to calling up Ronan Hale to NI… but he has to switch from Republic first

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O’Neill also pointed out that he has received calls from clubs across the water about the 25-year-old frontman who ended the season on a high by scoring twice for the Reds in their 3-1 victory over Linfield in the Irish Cup Final.

As Sunday Life Sport reported earlier this month there is interest in Hale from Scottish Premiership and English League One sides and with the player having one year left on his Cliftonville contract a summer move is on the cards.

An international transfer for Hale could also lead to new possibilities. The Belfast man has played several times for the Republic of Ireland Under-19 and Under-21 teams but not the senior team.

Impressed by Hale’s match-winning heroics in the Irish Cup Final, O’Neill, who was at Windsor Park on Monday to name his squad for next month’s friendlies against Spain and Andorra, said: “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.

“That might be a conversation that Ronan and I can have. 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.”

Ronan Hale scored twice in Cliftonville’s Irish Cup Final victory over Linfield

On transfer interest for the Cliftonville ace, O’Neill stated: “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’s brother Rory (27) played for Northern Ireland at Under-19 level before switching to the Republic where he played for the FAI’s Under-21 side. In one game for the Republic Under-21s both Rory and Ronan scored goals.

Continuing the sibling theme there were two sets in O’Neill’s 26 man panel for the June 8 match against Spain in Mallorca and the fixture with Andorra three days later in Murcia — the Evans boys and the Charles duo.

While the Green and White Army have become used to seeing the names of Jonny and Corry Evans together in squads over the years, Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper Pierce Charles has been selected for the first time alongside his brother Shea who is at Southampton. The younger Charles (18) has trained with the Northern Ireland senior players in the past but this is considered his first official call-up.

Manager O’Neill said: “We’ve known about Pierce for quite a while. He played for the 21s out in Serbia and put in a great performance. It was a great result for Tommy (Wright, NI Under-21s boss) to win away in Serbia against a strong Serbian team and an older Serbian team than what we had on the night.

“Pierce is one of those goalkeepers that everyone is looking for in the modern game. He’s got great distribution, real composure with the ball at his feet and we know at Sheffield Wednesday they really regard him highly.”

Charles is set to be a key performer in the summer for Gareth McAuley’s Under-19 side when Northern Ireland host the Under-19 European Championship Finals.

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