This story produced an extraordinary amount of journalism, and an equally extraordinary diversity of opinion. I don’t often express strong comment in the letter, but Tom Utley’s offering for Saturdy’s Daily Telegraph beats all comers for its utter vacuity Lennon is a big girl’s blouse. Tom McGurk’s normally faultless analysis is majorly undermined by two glaring inaccuracies pointed out by on-line readers at the end of the article.
Amy Lawrence in the Observer quantifies the real cost of such incidents, without apportioning great blame:
“Over to Jim Boyce, the larger-than-life president of IFA. ‘The biggest problem we’re finding is that our young players who go across the water are not being given a chance because these clubs are full of foreigners. The difference between 1982 and 2002 is that when our players went to England or Scotland, if they had ability they were playing first-team football. Now they are coming back to Northern Ireland in their droves, thoroughly disillusioned.’
“With talent drying up, particularly at a time when the Republic are creating such a stir on the international scene, Lennon’s sorry fate could have a devastating long-term impact. Young Catholic players born in Northern Ireland (like their non-Catholic counterparts) have the option of playing for the Republic. Many are taking up that option. ‘That would be absolutely criminal,’ laments 1980s legend Gerry Armstrong. But can you blame them?”
Ireland on Sunday examines one such case.