Friday, 30 July 2010


A dark day for Northern football limits Nigel Worthington's talent pool

Make no mistake, today is a landmark day in Irish football.

It seems player eligibility on the island of Ireland has reached it's climax.  The topic follows on from a post I did almost three years ago, and does not make pretty reading for the Irish Football Association.

Following a number of defections to the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) of it's players, the Irish Football Association (IFA) took the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in an attempt to stop the talent drain to the Republic which threatens to spiral out of control.

The IFA case has quite clearly fell on deaf ears with those at CAS, and has now opened the door to Northern Ireland's footballing elite to switch allegiances to the Republic of Ireland if they so wish.

In a statement, the IFA said it was "disappointed by the decision".  Rubbish.  Underneath, they will be absolutely seething and will be left reeling by the decision, and rightly so.  Why would an association who govern's, trains, and educates it's emerging talent wish to see that talent then handed over to a rival association whenever they are wanted?

The FAI 'victory' can no doubt be attributed to their continued referral throughout the case to the historic 'Good Friday Agreement' whereby anyone born on the island of Ireland can indeed be recognised as a citizen of Ireland.

However, this farcical situation where two Irish Associations go against one another is quite blatantly based on religious affiliation, and not citizenship; a right which the Gibson's, Duffy's and Wilson's of this world are guaranteed from day one by the way.  Therefore the FAI's insistence on quoting the GFA in order to bolster it's already minimal local based talent looks to be both narrow-minded and greedy.  Of course the FAI strategy would have to be expected when you take into consideration the number of non-Irish born Republic of Ireland internationals in the past.  When an association is so used to having it's pool of talent UK-wide, Northern Ireland was always going to be vulnerable to the prying eye of the FAI.

But it is also extremely insensitive.  Many within Northern football would view the FAI's strategy of claiming players not entitled to them as out-of-touch with the 'new' Northern Ireland that is being created following the signing of that historic agreement.

'Shared', 'inclusive', 'partnership' were all keywords that feature within creating peace and prosperity in Northern society.

Did those at the FAI miss that section of the agreement?

Their claims that they maintain good relations with their Northern counterparts may well be true, but is something more sinister lurking in the background?  Their actions can be seen as opportunism, yet for many in Northern football it is seen as a blatant sectarian grab for the Roman Catholic population who might be easily 'sweet-talked' into a switch of associations.

A defection based on religious grounds then.  Really...

Does this seriously respect a 'shared' future?


It places yet another religious barrier over a 'war-weary' Northern society that is trying it's best to find a way to embrace the relatively new concept of 'shared future' together.  Unfortunately, it was the high profile Northern Ireland youth international Darron Gibson that set the negative trend, and so far Armagh's Marc Wilson and Derry's Shane Duffy have followed suit.  No doubt there will be more to come following Don Givens appointment to Chief Scout in the United Kingdom.

I'll leave you with a depressing scenario that could well emerge from the whole elligibility debacle...

Envisage five to ten years down the line where 'Catholic Ireland' is led by the FAI, and a 'Protestant Ireland' is governed by the IFA.  The so-called 'Orange' and 'Green' firmly set apart from each other.  An Ireland of equals?  A building of bridges?

Don't believe the local media hype for one minute.

Football Apartheid in Ireland is progressing from a political level to a religious one, and like it or not the FAI have been handed a huge advantage over their Northern counterparts from this decision.

Friday, 23 July 2010


Stewart scores goal that banks a game with Juventus in next round

"Bnei Yehuda 0-1 Shamrock Rovers (Agg 1-2)"

If you can pronounce the afore mentioned name, then well done you.  Thankfully, we won't be hearing from them again any time soon as part-time League of Ireland outfit Shamrock Rovers have knocked them out of this season's Europa League.

A 1-0 victory in Israel tonight sealed the 'Hoops' passage into the next round where a lucrative tie with European heavyweights Juventus awaits.  A former schoolboy team-mate of mine Tommy Stewart will be the toast of Tallaght tonight as he popped up with the crucial goal to send Rovers through.

The 'Nordie' influence has been prevalent in Shamrock Rovers for the previous two seasons in particular with ex-Glentoran man Michael O'Neill recruiting the best of Northern football.  The first fellow countryman to jump ship to the League of Ireland was arguably the best goalkeeper in the Irish League, Alan Mannus of Linfield FC.  O'Neill then snapped up former NI U21 international Chris Turner on a free transfer. The latest move for the Northern stars came when ex-Linfield & Derry City forward Thomas Stewart signed up for Michael O'Neill's Green & White Army.

Many's a grumble could be heard amongst the Tallaght faithful with this Northern invasion, but tonight should put that element of the support back in their box for another couple of weeks at least. 

A fantastic night in Irish football was capped off with the bonus of North Belfast side Cliftonville's progression to the next round where they will come up against Bulgarian outfit CSKA Sofia.

However, all wasn't hunky dory for others in Irish club football as Europe's newcomers Sporting Fingal went down 3-2 on the night and 6-4 on aggregate against one of the top Portuguese side Maritimo.  Portadown also put on a brave show going out by the odd goal.  Meanwhile spare a thought for Dundalk FC who gained entry to this seasons Europa League thanks to Derry City's demise.  The border side went down 8-0 on aggregate!

Current Irish League champions Linfield can hold their heads high following a 2-0 defeat in Norway to Champions League regulars Rosenberg.  The 0-0 result in Belfast the previous week was highly unexpected, yet offered hope to us all that maybe qualifying for the proper stages of European competition isn't as far away off as many had anticipated...

Those in East Belfast and the Northside of Dublin mightn't be so optimistic after two disastrous defeats left both sides with that sinking feeling.  Glentoran did their usual 'choke' on the big stage after a 5-2 aggregate defeat to Icelandic champions RK Reykjavik.  However, Bohemians careless surrendering of a 1-0 first leg lead against Welsh champions TNS came at a complete shock to both myself and many local football supporters throughout the island.  4-0? Wow. All I can  presume is that the two pre-season games TNS had with both Linfield and Glentoran paid dividends.  Inspired choices!

But this side of the British Isles, all the credit must go to Shamrock Rovers and Cliftonville.  Two small steps forward for local football, one big UEFA pay-day lies in wait for both clubs - and hopefully, their respective leagues!