Kevin Myers last week, just before the Republic’s decider against Switzerland made some suggestions as to how the national question might be fixed in football. Have two teams, one for the UK, the other Irish, and let players and supporters follow their own passions.
Though he first questions just how Irish the Irish are these days:
…it seems as if the English Premiership has corrupted very many players from what we might call the British working classes, for the truth is that the working-class estates of Dublin in many ways are culturally more British than “Irish”. Pub televisions are rarely tuned to RTÉ, and Irish music is hardly played, unless it is in the Anglo-American idiom. A French or German visitor would have trouble spotting the differences between some areas of Dublin and those of Preston, Blackburn or Newcastle, either in architecture, alcoholic consumption, sexual habits, diet, gang-traditions, music, high illiteracy and low educational aspirations.
And of the Republic’s most successful period:
We told ourselves lies when we said they were Irish. They weren’t. They were British-Irish: Brirish. Ray Houghton was as Irish as Aberdeen; Tony Galvin hadn’t a clue he had Irish ancestry until some FAI official went sleuthing into the genealogy of English players with Irish surnames. It didn’t matter. Under the English management of Jack Charlton and the quintessential British army sergeant-major, Maurice Setters, they bonded as men and played as men, with traditional Brirish qualities of doughtiness, courage, loyalty, oh yes, and heart, all within green shirts. And by God, those green shirts meant something to the hearts beating within them back then.
The truth is that the quality of native soccer players from the Brirish Archipelago does not justify such huge over-representation in international soccer competitions. There should simply be one United Kingdom team, and one Irish team, and of course under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, players from the island of Ireland could declare for either, to engage in whatever form of witless clodhopping the two outfits would presumably