It was inevitable, but it doesn’t make it any less disappointing, as the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s ruling on player eligibility means that the FAI now have a green light to basically steal Northern Ireland born players with no blood links to the Republic of Ireland with no recriminations whatsoever.
There’s nothing that I can add that I haven’t already mention on my previous blog. The FAI have been acting like school bullies in this case, and their reaction to this decision will no doubt be smirking and giggling to themselves, like a bunch of school bullies who have been caught red-handed, hauled before the principal ………… and gotten away with it.
Credit to the IFA for fighting this all the way, but the battle may have been lost in the courts, but it still isn’t over.
Sadly, this abhorrition of a ruling means that the FAI are free to rape and pillage the IFA’s player resources, but there is nothing to stop the IFA from encouraging young players to play for them, and resist the lure of the FAI.
Whatever it takes, when a player is brought into the youngest age team, the IFA must double, even triple, their efforts to make sure it is a career-long relationship.
Sadly, when watching the Under-19 Milk Cup Final between Northern Ireland and USA, you couldn’t help but wonder how many of those players would one day play for the senior Northern Ireland team.
Such curiousities are quite normal, but the question sadly isn’t “Will they be good enough to play for Northern Ireland?”, but “Will they be poached by the Republic of Ireland?”
Like I said in my previous blog, this is a sneaky and under-hand way of trying to create a MK Dons-esque “All-Ireland Team”.
Though player defections are the exception rather than the norm, if it isn’t tackled head on, it will become the norm rather than the exception, creating an All-Ireland team, with Northern Ireland being seen as nothing more than a reserve team for this “Utopian Vision”.
It may be hard to take, but I hope the IFA must be strong on this issue, and I hope that any player who comes crawling back after defecting isn’t considered for selection.
It may sound controversial (I fully expect people to queue up to be offended by it) but a clear message needs to be sent out that our national team is not a “1am, any girl will do” option in a footballer’s career, should the fairy story that got fed to them not turn out to be true.
No doubt, people will be quick to counter that by pointing out George McCartney, but there is a difference. George McCartney didn’t refuse to play for Northern Ireland, he refused to play for Lawrie Sanchez.
It’s very naive to suggest that the background of the players they are taking is merely coincidental.
A dangerous precedent is being set with this recuritment policy, potentially dividing our football into “The prads play for da norf and da kafflics play for da souf”
I certainly have my doubts that FAI scouts ventured up to Rathcoole to try and poach Jonny Evans.
After all, a young player tipped for great things at Manchester United would surely be the sort of player you would be interested in if he was available?
It is important to distinguish that religion and nationality are two different and unrelated matters and, shock horror, you can be a catholic and play for Northern Ireland, and be proud to do so, like Jim Magilton, who spoke out against the defections recently in the Belfast Telegraph.
Though ironically in Northern Ireland, those who are quick to total up the quotas of P’s and C’s, are often disinterested in the subject they are totalling.
Put simply, those who are quick to comment about how many Protestants are in the Northern Ireland team, and how many Catholics there are in the Northern Ireland team, don’t actually support or care about the Northern Ireland team.
With the impending Celtic Cup due to take place in 2011, the IFA must consider their involvement in this competition.
Quite how IFA suits would co-operate and cosy up to their FAI counterparts in the organisation of this competition, having been treated so shabbily by them would be beyond me.
If Wayne Bridge can sacrifice playing in a World Cup having been treated with utter contempt and betrayed by John Terry, then there’s nothing to stop the IFA from sacrificing the Celtic Cup.
If you’ve got some clout, why not use it?
Without sounding arrogant, the Celtic Cup would collapse without Northern Ireland (or indeed, any of the other competing nations) in the same way the British Championship collapsed once England and Scotland.
There would certainly be some form of poetic justice if any divisions caused by this happened to the Republic of Ireland team, as Southern born players get resentful of Northern Ireland born players taking their places in the team.
I know that if I was born in the Republic of Ireland, worked hard at football, got a call-up to the national team, then had my place taken by a blow-in with no affiliation to the team, I would certainly be resentful.
And there’s only so long you can supress resentment like that.
Sadly, this has been a lonely battle for Northern Ireland. We’ve had to fight this alone, with no cheerleading from the mainstream UK media.
The final word, or possibly the final three words, deserve to go to FAI Chief Executive John Delaney.
Last November, he was quite happy to talk about ‘fair play’ and ‘integrity’ in the aftermath of the Republic of Ireland’s World Cup Qualifying defeat to France. Sadly, it’s something his organisation preaches but doesn’t practice.
Fair play? Integrity? Don’t make me laugh.