When The Granny Rule Worked Out For Ireland – And When It Really Didn’t

Shay Brennan

The first Granny Rule player, Ireland’s first European Cup winner was born to Irish parents in Manchester. He made his way through the youth ranks at Manchester United during the era of Busby Babes, before being thrown into the first team in the aftermath of the Munich Air Disaster. He scored two goals vs Sheffield Wednesday in United’s first game following the crash and went on to win two league titles, the FA Cup and the European Cup in 355 games for the club. At international level, he benefited from rule changes by FIFA in the early 1960’s and became the first second-generation Boy in Green when he lined out vs Spain in a 1965 World Cup playoff. 

Tony Cascarino 

Cascarino was the subject of great controversy in 2000, when he admitted that during his Ireland career, his mother told him that she had been adopted, and that therefore he was not a blood relative of his Irish grandfather. Nevertheless, he was an undoubted success in the green jersey, scoring 19 goals in 88 appearances during Ireland’s golden era under Jack Charlton at Euro 1988 and the World Cups of 1990 & 1994. 

Kevin Kilbane

Although he was born in Preston, Killer’s international future was never in doubt. Raised by Irish parents, he turned down a callup from the England U18 squad while at Preston North End, famously being told by then-manager Sam Allardyce to “get the f**k out of my office” upon telling him he didn’t want to play for the Three Lions. Kevin went on to become Mr. Consistency for the Boys in Green, playing 110 times for Ireland and nearly breaking the world record for most consecutive caps with 66 competitive games in a row between 1999-2011. 

Ray Houghton 

The man who put the ball in the English net was in fact born a Scotsman. Ray qualified for the Boys in Green through his Buncrana-born grandfather, going on to serve Ireland with distinction throughout his 73 appearances. Although he only scored 6 times for Ireland, two goals have entered Irish folklore – his looping header vs England at Euro 1988 and a 25-yard lob vs Italy at the 1994 World Cup serving as the fondest memories of those halcyon days watching the team that Jack built. 

Matt Holland

A serial captain at club level, where he led Bournemouth, Ipswich and Charlton into battle, Matty Holland was born in Bury and qualified for Ireland through his Monaghan grandmother. He famously scored Ireland’s opening goal at the 2002 World Cup vs Cameroon as Ireland reached the Round of 16. 

The Duds..

Jack Grealish

Born in Birmingham, young Jack played for Ireland from U15 right up to U21 level, declining multiple advances from the English set-up. He affirmed his desire to play for Ireland in 2013 and again in early 2015, upon being named FAI U21 POTY. However, he declined a call-up from Martin O’Neill for a European Championship qualifier vs Scotland, subsequently declaring for England and playing for their U21s in 2016 & 2017. Although he’s yet to play for the Three Lions at senior level, his flying form at club level will surely lead to inclusion in Gareth Southgate’s squad when football is back up and running again. 

Paul Green

Trap called up the then-Derby midfielder in May 2010, who qualified for Ireland through his maternal grandmother, who hailed from Westport in Co. Mayo. In an era of Irish football featuring midfielders such as James McCarthy, Glenn Whelan, Keith Andrews, Keith Fahey, Wes Hoolahan & Darron Gibson, Green somehow managed to win 22 caps. Following a 0-0 draw to Sweden in 2013, Trappatoni compared Paul to AC Milan legend Gennaro Gattuso. He was sacked months later. Coincidence? 

Martin Rowlands

I have a bone to pick with Martin Rowlands. The London-born midfielder won just five caps in five years from 2004-2009. His first involvement with the 2010 World Cup campaign was in our crunch home game vs Italy. Picture the scene: I am a 14 year old lad following Irish football properly for the first time. We’re 2-1 up with five minutes to go after Sean St Ledger, another Granny Rule beneficiary, scored a brilliant diving header at the far post. We just have to defend our lead. Rowlands, playing CM, just has to sit tight in front of the back four. What does he do? He gets caught way too far forward in added time and the Irish defence is torn to shreds by an Italian counter attack that ends in heartbreak after a goal by Alberto Gilardino in the dying seconds. FFS Martin. 

Declan Rice

The story of Declan Rice needs no introduction to most fans of Irish football. Born in London, Rice was eligible for the Boys in Green through his Cork grandparents. He played at underage level from U16 all the way to U21 level, and was included in the senior Ireland squad after one appearance in the Premier League in 2017. Rice went on to play three times for the senior side, in friendlies vs Turkey, France and the USA throughout 2018. Quotes from him during this period included “there’s no decision to be made – it’s always been Ireland”, “[the national anthem] brought a tear to my eye” and “If I didn’t want to play for Ireland, I wouldn’t be here”. However, in August 2018, Martin O’Neill confirmed that Rice had been dropped from the squad ahead of a Nations League fixture vs Wales that would have committed Rice to Ireland definitively, explaining “He is still deliberating. He is a young man. England have spoken to him and we’re aware of that.” After the FAI embarrassed themselves by declaring him our U21 POTY, Rice made a public statement in February 2019 committing his international future to England. All in all, the definition of a slíbhín. 


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