Monday, 21 September 2009

Stephen Ireland and the granny rule

Back in our short-lived international football glory days when we qualified for things under Jack Charlton and Mick McCarthy, the Republic of Ireland’s use of the granny rule sometimes came under fire. Predictably much of the unfair criticism came from the likes of Jimmy Hill, John Motson, Jimmy Greaves and so on – peeved by the FAI snapping up players who qualified to play for the Republic under FIFA rules.

More surprisingly, perhaps, was the criticism coming from a minority of Irish people who felt that players such as Ray Houghton, Tony Cascarino and John Aldridge were not sufficiently Irish to pull on the green shirt.

You might also add the name of Alan McLoughlin, an English-born player who stepped up and scored the vital goal against Northern Ireland at a hate-filled Windsor Park in 1993. The goal that sent the Republic to the World Cups finals in the United States the following year. A goal I will never, ever forget.

I was living and working in London at that time of my life, and was one of many expatriate paddies going mental in the Horse and Tram pub, Leytonstone Road when the ball hit the back of the net. Alan McLoughlin was a hero, and his commitment - and that of the other non Irish-born players in that team - was beyond question.

Which brings us to Stephen Ireland, who would have been about nine years old during that game - old enough for it to be one of his formative football memories. The Manchester City midflelder is, of course, first-generation Irish - hailing from the same part of the country as fellow Cork egomaniac Roy Keane.

However, Ireland recently reiterated his decision not to play for his country again, citing Giovanni Trapattoni’s “arrogance” as the reason for the no-show. It seems that when Trapattoni – someone who has won the game’s greatest honours – met the City starlet in an attempt to persuade him to play in the forthcoming World Cup, he took his mobile phones with him and failed to switch them onto “meeting” mode for the occasion. Apparently, this perceived lack of respect was the final straw for the Corkman.

Ireland, remember, fabricated the deaths of his two (Irish) grannies to get out of playing against the Czech Republic in 2007. So not only is he a liar - it seems he hasn't even the grace to say he won't play international football simply because he can’t be arsed. That’s his prerogative, of course – but let's have some honesty.

If we qualify for South Africa we will come up against far, far better players than Stephen Ireland. Many of them will be earning a fraction of the highly inflated salary he gets in the financial bubble environment of the Premiership. Others will be world-acknowledged great players who won't even have heard of Manchester City's bolshy little midfielder. All will have one thing in common: they will be true footballers who will want to play at the highest level, on the world's greatest football stage.

If we don’t qualify, perhaps it’s time to cast the net wide again and invoke the granny rule with the gusto we once did?

You never know, we might even Find An Irishman who wants to play in future World Cups.

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2 comments:

bigphathar said...

The poor lad seems to be suffering from the same delusion that many in the Premiership seem to suffer from: That they are somehow better than the rest of us and that the rules do not apply to them, because he's 'special'.

(I would argue that he is, but for entirely different reasons.)

It's the same delusion that is apparent in the parties of government for the last decade, and every gombeen (no offence intended!) who declared themselves to be a 'developer' (builder who thinks he's 'special') or financier (banker who thinks that he's 'special') or venture capitalist (gambler who thinks that he's 'special'.)

Special my sweaty arse.

Anonymous said...

Steven Ireland, born liar! Things were so bad that during his 'wig phase' he was lying to us all before he even opened his mouth!

Interesting also to consider that he was probably the first player in history to use his granny as a way to NOT play for Ireland!