The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) has welcomed what it has described as a “landmark decision” which makes clear once and for all that Northern Irish players are able to play on the Republic’s soccer side.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) found in favour of the FAI in a case taken by the Irish Football Association (IFA) in relation to Republic of Ireland under-19 international Daniel Kearns.

The CAS is an international body set up to resolve disputes pertaining to sports. Its headquarters are in Lausanne and there are additional courts located in New York City and Sydney, with ad-hoc courts created in Olympics host cities as required.

The case involved a former West Ham player who started for the Republic of Ireland in spite of the face that he also played iwith Northern Ireland at underage levels. He made his first start for Sean McCaffrey’s underage Republic side in April, scoring the winner against Poland.

“The ruling upholds the right of individual choice on this matter for players born north of the border,” said FAI chief executive John Delaney today, welcoming the decision.

“I would like to thank the many people from all parts of the island who were strongly supportive during this process, and in particular, recognise the determination of Daniel Kearns and his family to uphold his right as an Irish citizen to play for his country.”

The Irish Football Association (IFA), the governing body of football in Northern Ireland, took the case against the FAI, the Republic’s equivalent body, as well as Fifa and Kearns. It was heard on July 19th.

Today’s ruling means that the IFA will not be able to prevent star players from crossing the border to play football in the Republic, which is considered more lucrative.

Despite the decision the FAI released a statement seeking to breach any possible rift that could emerge from the decision: “The FAI would like to take the opportunity to highlight that it has in recent years had good relations with the IFA. Those were maintained throughout this case and will continue into the future,” the organization said.

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