For many years the idea of people born outside of Ireland but playing for the national side due to ancestors has been a fiercely debated one. On one side of the argument is those that believe Ireland should simply play the best players available to them no matter where from and on the other is those that see National pride and Irishness as key to success and love of the Team. Stephen Kenny’s recent comments on not wanting to persuade people that they are Irish has somewhat reignited the flame of this long held debate.
It could certainly be argued that without the use of the Granny rule throughout the golden era of Irish football it would never have happened. Jack Charlton expertly exploited the rule by giving caps to the likes of John Aldridge and Ray Houghton who could easily of played for the country of there birth. Without the ability to use this rule Ireland likely would have had much less success throughout the late 80s and early 90s. This has become a leading argument for those in favour of using the rule in order to secure young talent before they are capped by the likes of England or Scotland. The current team has also undoubtedly benefitted from the rule in recent years. Players such as Aiden McGeady and Jon Walters have staredas a result of the rule and become cult heroes for Irish fans.These players have showed tremendous passion and desire in the green shirt and no one would argue that they should never have been selected due to them being English and Scottish by birth respectively. Despite the comments made by Kenny some will still hold out hope that Patrick Bamford and Others may yet jump ship and represent the Boys in Green. This would make the team stronger going forward.
Most managers since the Charlton era have utilised the granny rule to good effect and Stephen Kenny would really be breaking the mould to halt its use. The components of the rule will argue that the best players eligible for the Republic of Ireland team should be used no matter where they were born or what feeling they had towards the team prior to being selected. Ireland throughout the years would undoubtedly have been a far less superior side without the use of English and Scottish born players in the squad.
On the other side of this long running debate are those that believe the majority of the national team should be Irish born. This is largely due to a feeling that these players will have a natural passion for the team having grown up supporting the side and dreamed of playing for the team from a young age. A comparison can be drawn between two left wingers who have represented the Irish team in recent years. James McClean and Liam Lawrence. There can be no doubt that McClean has showed more passion and commitment to the Irish team than Liam Lawrence ever did. This is just one of countless examples of Irish born players showing more desire to play for the boys in green than there Granny Rule counterparts.
Another argument to be said for using only Irish born players is the danger of Ireland developing young prospects through the various underage teams only for them to be poached by there country of birth at senior level. Two recent examples of this will be burned in the memory of all Irish football fans as both Jack Grealish and Declan Rice exploited the Irish youth system only to jump ship at the final hurdle. Rice even went as far as playing at senior level before deciding that despite his supposed love of the country he actually wasn’t Irish after all and instead felt more English. This is one of the real dangers of the ‘Granny Rule’ and seems to be the exact type of incident that Stephen Kenny was referring to when he said he will not convince people they are Irish.
Overall both sides of the argument must be considered when selecting players for the National team. The overall quality of the player must be considered as one of if not the main aspect of selection however the players feeling towards the country and his connection to the Irish team must also be taken into account to try and avoid another Grealish or Rice scenario taking place. I do think that the ‘Granny Rule’ must be used where appropriate in order to give the team the best chance of qualifying for major tournaments. Stephen Kenny will have to make the final judgement on which players are suitable to play for Ireland and which aren’t and his comments do indicate that his selection process will differ from that of Irish managers gone by.