A number of sure signs that the football eligibility row has been permanently resolved could be detected in recent weeks. Firstly, there was the news that Northern Ireland manager, Nigel Worthington, was actively pursuing former Republic of Ireland international, Alex Bruce, as a prospective Northern Ireland international for the future. Bruce’s Republic caps were earned in friendly matches, making him still eligible to represent another international side.
This news has been apparently confirmed by the BBC tonight, indicating that Nigel Worthington and the IFA have effectively signalled the end of hostilities regarding the eligibility affair. The IFA were already facing the charge of hypocrisy regarding their opposition to northerners opting to leave the IFA structures to represent the Republic of Ireland due to the fact that several of the Northern Irish players previously represented other international sides. But this move, coming after the argument has effectively been settled by FIFA and the Court of Arbitration for Sports, should be viewed as the closing of the chapter.
Secondly, the news that Sinn Fein’s DCAL Minister has signalled her willingness to attend a Northern Ireland international fixture at Windsor Park indicates that Sinn Fein leaders are clearly of the belief that the eligibility row is over.
I came across this document by Daniel Collins during the week and, given the confused nature of many of the contributions on Slugger and elsewhere with regard to the entire eligibility dispute, it is well worth the read.