Conor McMenamin has been cleared to play for Northern Ireland after an investigation into a historic video

Conor McMenamin has been cleared to play for Northern Ireland after an investigation into a historic video
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Northern Ireland manager Ian Baraclough says Glentoran’s Conor McMenamin is clear to play Greece tomorrow after being “distraught” being pulled from the squad just hours before Saturday’s Nations League clash with Kosovo at Windsor Park will.

In his press conference ahead of tomorrow’s game in Athens, Baraclough also revealed he believes the video incident in which Kilmarnock’s Kyle Lafferty was withdrawn from the squad last Friday happened during a team bonding evening last Tuesday.

McMenamin, 27, was withdrawn from the weekend game after historic video surfaced which appeared to show the winger singing an alleged pro-IRA chant, but he then joined his teammates on Sunday’s flight to Athens after The Irish FA had collected more information on the video, which is said to be seven years old and for which the former Cliftonville and Linfield player was fined by his club at the time.

The issue was investigated by an independent Disciplinary Committee to determine if McMenamin had breached Football Association of Ireland rules and due to the age of the video he has now been cleared to play and no further action will be taken as Baraclough insists the Winger doing is the ‘right mindset’ to play.

McMenamin was withdrawn a day after striker Lafferty, 35, was sent home to a video that appeared to show him using allegedly sectarian language as part of an investigation at his club Kilmarnock.

Baraclough answered questions about McMenamin and Lafferty at today’s press conference.

Steven Becom: Can you clarify what happened to Conor McMenamin over the weekend and explain why he was withdrawn first, why he’s back in the squad and able to play Greece?

Ian Baraclow: When we saw what was coming out on social media it was brought to our attention, it was something we had to act on quickly and we weren’t able to tell when something like this was taken. It has apparently turned out to be a historic tweet for which he was previously punished by his club. I don’t think we can take any chances as an association certainly with what happened to Kyle a few days earlier so the action and decision was taken to pull him out and see how it went from there. The Disciplinary Committee has obviously looked at this and sat down and he’s now free to be with us tomorrow, which is good news.

SB: Sounds like a mistake was made pulling him out in the first place?

IB: No, because you couldn’t be sure until it was examined and it was done. I think it was the right thing. It was difficult to tell the boy. Was it difficult to give him the information? Of course it’s like denying someone is in the squad and possibly getting another cap, but I think it was the right thing to do instead of not reacting at all.

IFA official: Just to clarify that no further action needs to be taken.

SB: To me and others it seems that this whole episode was handled in a haphazard way and was confusing and it seems a bit messy. Shouldn’t that happen?

IB: It’s not for me to comment on that. For me it’s about what’s happening on the pitch and trying to focus on the game. Luckily we had a performance and we also got the result. For me it’s on to the next game. I take care of the football stuff and take care of the rest.

SB: What was your role in all of this, Ian? Did you have a say in Conor’s removal on Saturday?

IB: I had to tell Conor that he’s the manager, the leader, but it’s never an easy conversation. I assured him we had our wholeheartedly behind him and would quickly try to investigate to ensure he could play this game.

SB: How does Conor feel now that it’s been a rollercoaster ride for him?

IB: For someone who made his debut in the summer and wanted to add something to the three caps he’s had, he was probably desperate. There is no other word to use. Obviously I gave him some arguments and the thinking behind them and then acted quickly because it was probably a few hours before the game so you can imagine this happened at the hotel before we left. It’s clearly not the message you want to receive.

SB: People will ask if Conor McMenamin is back, have you considered bringing Kyle Lafferty back into the group?

IB: It’s a different situation. That happened nine, ten years ago. I think that’s the time frame and he was obviously penalized for that by the club at the time. Kyle’s incident happened a few days ago.

SB: Is it true Ian that you took the players to a team bonding session in Belfast last Tuesday night and that’s when the Kyle Lafferty incident happened? If so, do you have any regrets turning players off given the current climate with videos on social media?

IB: We all went out. We all went to the restaurant and we all came back. The next day the players were free. They are adults. They know they have a responsibility and when they are in international service they still represent themselves, their clubs, their families and me. You can’t keep them locked up in a hotel and you give them a degree of trust. They hope that this is also the right thing to do in the future. We’re talking about a team bonding session and people being themselves and seeing them in their natural state and sometimes you have to learn from that. It might be something we’ll look at later. It has always been great for Northern Ireland teams to have a bit of alone time so for me waking up to headlines and news like this was something we didn’t expect. I’m disappointed.

SB: So you can confirm that Kyle’s video incident happened on team bonding night last Tuesday?

IB: I think so. It wasn’t like we went to the restaurant together. I’ve got an investigation going on, so I guess I can’t say too much more than that.

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