More nationalists might play for Northern Ireland if the Irish Football Association (IFA) could find an alternative national anthem to replace God Save the Queen.

That's the opinion of Northern Ireland's elite player Gerry Armstrong, who has been capped 63 times. Armstrong says the anthem issue has cropped up as a sticking point in several conversations he's had with prospective players recently.

'It is an issue which is sensitive to a lot of nationalist lads,' he told BBC sports this week.

Although several Northern Ireland-born players have lined up for the Republic, Armstrong's role is to try and persuade Northern Ireland-born players from the nationalist community not to switch their international allegiance to the Republic.


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'It might have been a reason, maybe, why some of them didn't want to play for Northern Ireland,' Armstrong added. 'I do think it's something that needs to be talked about. Where it goes, I just don't know.'

In an effort to move the situation forward Armstrong told the press he has had informal discussions with Snow Patrol songwriter and Northern Ireland fan Gary Lightbody about the anthem issue.

'I know Gary Lightbody and it was a possible way out in terms of what we could do. We looked at the Scottish solutions and the Welsh situations where they have their own national anthems.'

Armstrong hails from a nationalist background and says playing of God Save the Queen was never an issue for him during his own Northern Ireland career, but he has observed it is for many other players.

'Or for a lot of other players and I don't see why it should be a major issue now. But it is an issue that has been raised by some - not by all.'