Can Irish soccer ‘swing’ both ways?

Mark Devenport follows up a piece from Good Morning Ulster this morning with the suggestion coming from the new NI manager that a compromise deal allowing both associations should be allowed to effectively ‘poach’ players from either jurisdiction be taken up again…

It would, as Mark notes, allow those born in Britain (and elsewhere) with Dublin and Cork grannies play for Northern Ireland…

  • J Kelly

    People dont seem to be getting what the issue is here, players like Darren Gibson and James McClean grew up in Derry supporting the Republic of Ireland team and I am sure dreaming of playing for them one day. They are Irish and want to play for the country that most represents their national identity. If anybody wants to get a sense of this come to Derry next June it will be like being in Dublin Cork Galway Newry or any other Irish town or city all the shops and bars will be decorated in the Green White and Orange and what will make it better hopefully we will have at least two local lads playing. If Norn Ireland ever qualified it wouldn’t be the same at all as the vast majority of citizens would have no interest.

  • Mike the First

    It’s a bad idea as far as I’m concerned as simply allowing players from anywhere on the island and with either nationality/citizenship would lead simply to two all-Ireland teams (with the NI team as the lesser one). A pointless situation and one that wouldn’t sustain for very long.

  • Mike the First

    “Like…ANY other Irish town or city”, J Kelly?

    Begs the question of what you mean by “Irish”, and “any”.

  • john

    Cant see FIFA allowing it. The only possible way would be for the IFA to try and claim that they are the original association and have jurisdiction over the whole Island giving rise to 2 Ireland teams run by different associations similar to what was happening in the 30s and 40s. The IFA would also have to start calling the team Ireland again which Im sure would upset some of the Windsor crowd!
    Interesting enough wasnt this one of the original proposals during the recent CAS ruling which the IFA completley refused prior to losing the case.

  • Mike the First

    By the way…

    “It would, as Mark notes, allow those born in Britain (and elsewhere) with Dublin and Cork grannies play for Northern Ireland… ”

    I don’t think this is correct. If memory serves me correctly (and I stand to be corrected), the FIFA proposal with regards eligibility only related to players born in the ROI being eligible to be selected for NI, not players with ROI parents/grandparents. And it would be the latter group who would be more open to any approach from NI rather than the former, I would speculate.

  • Can Irish Soccer Swing Both Ways? Hopefully NOT.

    The simple answer is Yes and No. And there are consequences. And the problem with consequences is that we never jnow what they will be.

    Darron Gibson and others can play for Ireland without any change to their mindset or the ethos of the nation, team and its supporters north and south.

    A young lad from Dublin (and why not indeed) could not play for Norn Iron without a major rethink about his own identity in its phiolosophy as a “nation” (!) team and on the terraces……..where of course “our wee country” is brilliant ……so it is.

    I cant blame the northern FA and its cheerleaders for trying but essentially this is a struggle between unionist and “lets get alongerists”. It is not in the interests of nationalists to make Norn Iron more homogenous. So anything the Northern FA does by way of furthering the debate is meaningless.
    Anything of substance that the North could do (flags, anthems, culture) to make the team more acceptable would undermine the very nature of Norn Iron and alienate it from its own supporters.

    So in a sense I should encourage it……its a Win/Win situation for nationalists.

  • J Kelly

    This is not a football or even a political issue for the young people involved its just natural for them wanting to play for the republic.

  • stewart1

    The decision by the IFA to drag West Belfast footballer Daniel Kearns through the courts for having the cheek to represent Ireland, finished any possible chance of an internal Irish agreement outside the CAS ruling.

    Interesting that despite many of these players telling how they grew up supporting and following the Republic team (as do a large percentage of football supporters in the North), the local pro- ni press are totally in denial regarding this , there is an almost uniformed silence regarding the fact that for a large section of the community, the ni team never has, and never will be representative of who they are.

    And even more bizarrely, they seem to think that employing their first local catholic manager in 50 years is going to make every thing ok, and Irish people in the north will no longer wish to play for the Ireland team and will instead choose to represent one of the four British associations, via the IFA.

    Or..perhaps its just window dressing, as the IFA now realise that they have nothing left in their armoury to force Irish players to play for a team that means nothing to them!

  • UEFA offered this compromise two years ago and was rejected by the IFA. Why should they offer it again?

  • JR

    I suppose when a large population of people are undemocratiaclly roped into a country they want have no affiliation to there will be problems.

    Maybe a two team solution is best, Ireland and East Antrim.

  • ayeYerMa

    A bad idea. The relationship of players between Northern Ireland and the Republic teams should be the same as Northern Ireland and the England Scotland or Wales teams. i.e. requiring a granny rule or 2 years of residence in any particular jurisdiction to play for it.

  • john

    A bit off topic but just picking up on what ayeyerma has posted I personlaly think the residency rule is a joke. I would bet that the Qatar 2022 team will be full of ringers who have played in their league for 2 years prior to the world cup. Back on topic I think the most important thing for Michael O’Neil is to get the players who are available motivated. The biggest problem recently is players crying off injured or just not giving it 100%. Maik Taylor spoke of his shock at some of the younger players lack of respect for international footbal and the Carling Cup was a disgrace as so many players didnt bother to turn up leaving a very young and inexperienced team to get battered.

  • sherdy

    Frankly, my dear . . . ZZZZZZZZZ

  • jonno99

    It has to be faced at some point in the near future. The NI team is effectively a unionist team euphemistically referred to by its supporters as ‘our wee country’.

    Its pool of eligible players are ever diminishing. Embarrassing court cases that unsuccessfully try to rope in young nationalists to play for them makes me wonder what exactly the IFA are about.

    Tinkering with replacing the British anthem won’t cut the mustard. Root and branch reform of the NI set up won’t change things much either, apart from help lose its unionist identity.

    If the IFA want to continue with a NI team then so be it. The FAI have in effect an ALL Ireland team now. My preference would be for the FAI and IFA to amalgamate and have one Ireland team but that might mean some unacceptable compromises e.g. a meaningless anthem, neutral flags or none at all etc

  • Lionel Hutz

    Really, people do not seem to understand why FIFA has ruled the way they have.

    Any person holding a permanent nationality that is not dependent on residence in a certain country is eligible to play for the representative teams of the Association of that country

    Irishmen born in Northern Ireland are entitled to play for the only association representing the the state of Ireland by virtue of being entitled to permanent nationality regardless of residence.

    The only problem for the reverse is that in order to be eligible to play for Northern Ireland, you have to be British and people from the South are not British.

    Those born in Britain with Irish parents or grandparents can palyt for Northern Ireland in the same way that any British person can play for northern Ireland. These an agreement between the four home nations. How do you get around that???

    Ireland has no such agreement with the home nations.

  • chewnicked

    O’Neill hasn’t learnt from the mistakes made by his predecessor, Worthington-e.g he is already using the term ‘poaching’ and describing the Northern Ireland soccer team as ‘his country’. A ‘country’ in soccer but not in cricket, rugby etc.?
    O’Neill’s starting point should be to accept the absolute right of irish lads to play for the Ireland team but then to try to persuade them to instead consider playing for the 6 county team for footballing reasons-for example, persuading players of limited talent to increase their profiles and club careers through accruing more caps by playing for his less talented team.This would be a less cynical approach than pretending that Darron Gibson et al have somehow been tricked into playing for a foreign country.
    Given that the IFA team has been drawn in such a tough WC qualifying group confirms that his hopes of attracting players on the promise of the road to glory to Brazil 2014 are somewhat limited.

  • BluesJazz

    It’s academic. Both teams are crap. Euro 2012 already has all the hallmarks of being a damp squib. Ireland (Rep. of) will fall at the 1st hurdle (no doubt heroically in the press), no-one except their mothers could like most of the England team, and the host nations are crap.

    Like the Premier League, only 4 or 5 teams can win it, and there’s no South American class.

    In the shadow of the Olympics, it will have as much interest as the Asian betting syndicate cup of Africa about to start on ITV4 next week .

  • FuturePhysicist

    John, I don’t know what the Qatar team would be like in 2022, I do know that it will probably double or even treble its current population by then and I also know people have dismissed the likes of Iraq in the past and they had both a strong Olympics and an Asian Cup win to their name (without ringers). This hasn’t got as bad as rugby or cricket.

    I don’t think the residency rule is a joke, why should a player like Eduardo da Silva raised in Croatia have any less right to play for Croatia through residency than say Owen Hargreaves or John Barnes has to play for England through parentage? Why Alan Kernaghan was turned away by the IFA only shows meaningless puritan values still hold sway there over the realities of what essentially is a personnel marketplace that requires incentives and persuasion for talent.

    People have the right to represent who they are citizens of. As an Irish nationalist, I don’t begrudge any Ulsterman, even one from Donegal, Monaghan or Cavan using their British citizenship to play for either Northern Ireland or Team UK, if their eligible and the law says so. Why shouldn’t players play for the side they affiliate with if they can?

  • Republic of Connaught

    I’d be grand with Michael O’Neill giving caps to Southern players but somehow I can’t see that your average Loyalist or Unionist in Windsor park would be delighted to be cheering Ronan from Cork or Tadgh from Galway or Sean from Dublin if it was in a NI shirt. Football supporters tend not to be as cultured as rugby supporters.

    The very point of having a separate team is for Unionists to proclaim how ‘different’ they are to the rest of Ireland. So if lads from the rest of Ireland were playing in their team it would make two separate teams seem pointless.

  • sonofstrongbow

    It is distasteful in the extreme to turn young men who want to play football into icons for Irish nationalism. Although pretty much power for the course I doubt the sectarianistas on this thread will be producing any of the young men involved to proclaim their footballing decisions are their contribution to the ethos of the ‘men of ’16’.

    I expect when you view everything in life through the green prism of sectarian bitterness any and every opportunity is grabbed to further the cause. Counting flags, feverishly examining the minutia of policing or cheering on the sporting choices, so long as they are the ‘right’ choices, of young men are all grist to the Irish Republican mill.

    On the bright side I suppose we should be grateful that those young men are not being pilloried for playing “garrison games” in the first place. That is progress, isn’t it?

  • iluvni

    Well, I suppose rehashing this one will help the traffic on the site

  • MonkDeWallyDeHonk


    “green prism of sectarian bitterness.

    Of course there is no history of “loyalist” sectarian bitterness at Windsor park.

    No UDA/UVF flags, no vile anti-Catholic chants, no Rangers and Linfield scarves (during the many decades that those clubs had sectarian signing policies).

    Throw that in with the rousing rendition of GSTQ (including the obiligatory “No Surrender”), the flaunting of the Union Jack, the booing of Catholic players and the odd death threat.

    I really don’t know what’s wrong with these damn Taigs – imagine opting for another team where the supporters welcome all players as long as they want to play for the shirt.

    BTW, please don’t bother with the shite about it always being a cross-community team and there was never any sectarianism at Windsor.

    I think you’ll find that many NI fans on “Our Wee Country” and those behind “football for all” – fully accept that NI support was rife with anti-Catholicism for a long time and, to their eternal credit, have tried to improve the situation.

    I always laugh when we get the deniers on from among the NI fans. It was a different story when players had no choice but to opt for NI if they wanted to play internationals.

    Now (despite the pathetic efforts of the IFA), they do have that choice.

    Perhaps if the IFA and NI support hadn’t behaved so abysmally for many years, they wouldn’t have such a problem attracting Catholic players now.

  • John. Re the uninterested players. It’s not just the catholic playerswho aren’t interested, as the two Estonia matches, some oof the established members of the team couldn’t be bothered either, or may just have decided it wasn’t worth the effort any more .Nigel couldn’t motivate anyone to play for this side.

  • john

    Agreed madraj55 orange or green didnt matter they all needed a kick up the a$$ after the Estonian matches

  • FuturePhysicist

    I just noticed I made the classic their = they’re mistake. 🙁

  • sonofstrongbow


    Oh I see it’s all a protest agin Norn Irn. So you too claim these footballers as Sons of Erin combatting the vile outrages of the Huns.

    I’m sure their lusty rendition of the cross-community ‘Soldiers’ Song’ as the universally acceptable Irish Tricolour flies overhead will bring a tear to your eye.

    Your day has come. Enjoy.

  • BluesJazz

    Motivation is the key.
    The mojo has gone from international football.
    Club is everything now.
    Stephen Ireland couldn’t be arsed with his namesake ‘national’ side. And he’s far from the only one. Most of the NI players are going through the motions. The team that really shows the depth ‘national’ football has sunk to are England. Apart from Beckham and a few youngsters, they couldn’t give a fuck.
    Even the Dutch have lost their way. Spain just about hold it together because of the skill. Only Germany look as if they have any pride.
    Euro 2012 = Europa League

  • plainly speaking

    J Kelly says, “players like Darren Gibson and James McClean grew up in Derry supporting the Republic of Ireland team and I am sure dreaming of playing for them one day”

    I think the issue that triggers disappointment at the choice players like these make is that they are happy for their talents to be nurtured by the IFA right up to being given opportunities at U21 level.

    At what point do the scales fall off their young eyes and the realisation dawns that the whole IFA thing (in their opinion, presumably) is just a sectarian, unionist athletic association?

  • Mark

    Bluejazz ,

    The current Irish side epitomises teamwork , pride of the jersey . Wait until the breakdown of the teams in the media in the run up to Euro 2012 and see what the international press view as our strong points part from our technical skill of course ..

  • MonkDeWallyDeHonk


    I didn’t say that it was a protest against NI.

    The fact is that the overwhelming majority of Catholics/Nationalists don’t see NI as their team and will always support the RoI.

    However, had the IFA and NI supporters behaved decently towards Catholics fans/players in the past then there may be less of a rejectionist attitude from the Nationalist community.

    The fact is that they never saw the day coming when players would be allowed to exercise their right to opt for the RoI. Therefore, the IFA just stuffed GSTQ, Union Jacks etc down the throats of Nationalist players and fans. Now they are suffering the consequences.

    Frankly I couldn’t care less about NI. However, I believe that if they stick with GSTQ then they will continue to lose talent to the RoI. It’s the right of the IFA and NI fans to choose whatever anthem and flags they want – just don’t whinge about the consequences. If Nationalist players opt not to stand for GSTQ (incorporating No Surrender)as “their” anthem – they now have an alternative option so live with it.

    BTW, I’m sick of the hypocrisy of NI fans bleating about “their” players being “poached”. NI have a number of players they “poached” who have represented other countries at lower levels.

    It seems to be an issue when NI players are “poached” but it’s no problem when NI do it.

    Carlsberg don’t do hypocrisy – but if they did, it wouldn’t be a patch on the IFA and NI fans.

  • BluesJazz

    Mark, I’ll have a punt on them , simply because the (much better skilled) opposing teams players are under order not to get injured.
    Robbie Keane knows it’s his swansong.
    Still a poor tournament that Spain, Holland or Germany will win without trying. God help us if England win (again without trying)
    It’s at this level:

  • Hopping The Border

    “It is distasteful in the extreme to turn young men who want to play football into icons for Irish nationalism.”

    Perhaps what you mean is it is distasteful in the extreme for these young men to express their political and cultural affiliation playing the sport they love and are talented in.

    And that is the root of the problem. There is a certain section of NI fans who do not accept the validity of Irish men from Newry, Belfast, Derry and elsewhere in the north supporting the team they view as their own. Thus when some of these supporters are talented enough to actually play for the team they scream blue murder!

    The current situation allows people to play with the team that fits their national identity, only those from the “you are what we say you are brigade seem to be unhappy with the situation.

    However, those NI fans who point to the training costs etc I have some sympathy for them, notwithstanding the fact that clubs do the majority of the later development work and that all tax payers contribute to the IFA’s budget.

    Unfortunately, unless either:
    (a) the fai are allowed to establish training camps in the North (never going to happen obviously)
    (b) the fai & the ifa work out some sort of compensation scheme (undoubtedly difficult to compute)

    there would not appear to be a workable alternative.

    So all in all the current situation would appear to be the best play of a poor hand.

  • MonkDeWallyDeHonk

    Hopping The Border

    Even if some sort of compensation scheme were worked out (which I doubt). NI fans would want money paid to the IFA but somehow (given that most of them don’t seem to count it as poaching when NI do it), I doubt they’d see any reason for the IFA tp pay compensation when they do it.

  • Mike the First


    “And even more bizarrely, they seem to think that employing their first local catholic manager in 50 years is going to make every thing ok”

    Who on earth has actually said anything resembling this?

  • sonofstrongbow

    Hopping the Border,

    A big thanks for telling me what I mean. I don’t imagine I’d be able to get along without a sage such as your good self providing some online mind reading.

    Can I have a go? Perhaps what you mean is the sport has really got nothing to do with it. It’s all about an opportunity to express “political and cultural affiliation”. No doubt the young people are Sinn Fein voters to a man. Given you know the reasoning behind their decisions (another spot of mind reading?) their voting preferences, favourite colour etc you can also readily pontificate on.

    I’m afraid my powers desert me. I can’t see through the ethereal fog to discern how it is that the ‘political and cultural’ awakening happens when it does. When attending training camps prior to the Green Spirit coming on them do they simply swallow the rising bile at mixing with the IFA-accepting Hun? Perhaps there is an inoculation against the Northern Ireland Disease?

    As to happily playing the English game? Well I’m stumped.

  • As the links below show, FIFA had no objection to the suggestion that players from either side of the border could decide to play for either team – indeed the suggestion originated from FIFA:

    However, the bloody minded reaction of the IFA which was determined to ensure that Irish players from the north weren’t able to play for the Irish team, led to the compromise offer from FIFA being rejected. The IFA pressed FIFA to “uphold their own rules”, which they subsequently did and ruled against the IFA. Now O’Neill and the IFA want to roll back the years and ask FIFA for the old offer again? Lolz… it’s like a re-run of unionist politics of the last 40 years.

  • Mark

    Bluejazz ,

    Might be worth a few quid to get out of the group . There are some good value bets out there .

    Robbie Keane the first player the look directly into the cameras more than 60 times …

    John Terry’s parents to stay out of prison for the duration of the tournament …

  • Hopping The Border


    First off, living in the North and supporting Ireland does not automatically equate to supporting the shinners politically.

    Secondly, less of the sage rubbish please. I’ll put it quite simply, do you accept the right of those born in Northern Ireland to support RoI?

    Sport has everything to do with it and sportsmen will strive to perform at the highest level.

    As for your comments re underage training, they have little other choice and I am sure pretty much all get on perfectly well with their team mates and are happy to develop their skills with other talented individuals.

    However, if you are a nationality, and are talented enough to play for the team representing that nationality, why would you not take an opportunity to represent them in that sport were it to come along?

    Why is it you want to restrict their choice?

  • john

    First set back for Michael O’Neill as James McClean has confirmed his intention to play for the Republic. The IFA need to act quickly to stop the exodus but I guess not alot will change. Michael O’Neill has got a tough couple of years ahead of him I wish him all the best.

  • between the bridges

    Some will never want to play for NI, some (themuns) will only want to play for NI, some would like to play for ROI but would settle for playing for NI, and some will want to play for whichever is more successful…one thing is sure the GAWA will always support the piranhas ..

    With a population of 1.75 million, Northern Ireland should really be a footballing minnow. Instead, they could be better described as the piranhas of the international game ( 2009)

  • john

    btb – Some big scalps thats for sure but just like 2008 qualifying, 2010 ended in disapointment. Northern Ireland with a population of 1.75mill wont get many oppotunities and certainly those 2 campaigns were blown when qualification was in sight!!!

  • sliabhluachra

    Swinging both ways usually means something else. Do many Irish players swing both ways?
    Personally, I would support any soccer team that stood up to Blatter and co. The whoile game of soccer has been debased ftrom the Old Firm bore to LoI, IFA all the way up.
    It is ridiculous to speak of loyalty (to England, Ireland etc) in such a financially debased business.