Lennon is Irish, you say, but in football terms the Glasgow Celtic midfielder is a Northern Ireland international and cannot play a senior competitive international for the Republic.
Up to 1950 Irish players could play for the North or South and, coincidentally, 32 players (one for each county) were capped by both the IFA and the FAI. And we did have the case a few years back of Alan Kernaghan, who was born in England and reared in Belfast, but who opted to play for the Republic. However, while Kernaghan played schoolboy football for the North, he was never capped at senior level by the IFA.
Back in the 1950s we had players switching countries, with the great Puskas playing for both Hungary and Spain. But in recent years the rules have been tightened up and FIFA now state that if somebody plays a competitive senior international for one association, he cannot play for another. I’m sure the FAI would love to have Lennon, but it simply would not be allowed.
MICK UNDER FIRE
Could tonight’s game against Switzerland at Lansdowne Road be Mick McCarthy’s last in charge of the Republic? For a while last week it looked like McCarthy was on his way to Sunderland, but if Ireland win tonight, I think McCarthy is going to hang in there. Looking back over six and a half years and 68 games in charge, it’s fair to say that Mick has done a reasonably good job.
It was a virtually impossible task taking over from Jack Charlton, who had brought the Republic to a new level by qualifying for the World Cup Finals (twice) and the 1988 European Championship Finals.
Under McCarthy, the Irish play more attractive football. The manager built a new young team and eventually got his reward when we qualified for last summer’s World Cup finals. But then Ireland looked terrible in Moscow in the recent Euro ’04 qualifier and maybe now is the time for Mick to go.
In my dealings with McCarthy, I have always found him to be a very courteous man. Some of the Irish media didn’t like him, but then some didn’t want Big Jack either. So it’s hard to know what they want.
Tonight’s game will be on the best surface McCarthy has ever played or managed a team at Lansdowne Road. A new pitch was laid at the Ballsbridge venue during the summer and so far it has staged only one big game, the Rugby World Cup qualifier against Georgia.
RYDER CUP BARGAIN
Ireland Inc. is certain to get massive publicity when the Ryder Cup is staged at the K Club in County Kildare in 2006. And K Club owner Dr. Michael
Smurfit reckons that not only was it money well spent securing the event for Ireland, but we got a major golf event for a song.
“Look at the money which was offered by Wales and Scotland to try and stage the 2010 Ryder Cup,” Smurfit said. “With a bid estimated to be worth