|Rep. Ireland youth game at the Brandywell?|
SPEAKING to Dave O’Grady on the You Boys in Green Football Show, FAI Chief Executive John Delaney responded to a number of questions from Republic of Ireland football fans. It was put to Mr Delaney that, considering the amount of players currently in FAI teams hailing from the north of Ireland, particularly Derry, and the tendency to scatter youth games around Ireland, would the association ever consider staging an under-age international at the Brandywell, the home of League of Ireland side Derry City.
Delaney’s response was characterised by a noticeable depth of feeling. The emotion was palpable as he recalled his memories of Derry City entering theLeague of Ireland in the late 1980s and the day that the Football Association of Ireland won their landmark case at the Court ofArbitration for Sport (CAS) in the summer of 2010. “I was pleased,” said Delaney of the CAS verdict, “because it gave the players a right of choice.”
However, the FAI CEO conceded that, while he may personally be in favour of the idea of holding a youth international game in Northern Ireland, it would ultimately rely on permission from the Belfast-based IFA and such is the sensitivity of the eligibility topic within IFA circles, that permission would probably not be forthcoming. “I think you’ve got to respect that it might be seen as going ‘a bridge too far’ by the IFA, who actually run football in the north of Ireland”, mused Delaney diplomatically.
The only impediment, then, may come in the form of protest from the IFA. As Delaney notes, the IFA might possibly see it as a further insult to the integrity of their autonomy as the governing body of football in Northern Ireland. Delaney suggests that it would be difficult considering how sensitive the IFA are to the eligibility debate but, despite the occasional overflow of discontent from disgruntled Northern Ireland fans, that debate is settled and this is a separate idea – merely one of playing a game in the north. Naturally enough, certain areas in Northern Ireland would be more open to the idea of having a Republic of Ireland match staged in their neighbourhood.
One expects that there would be little difficulty in staging a game at the Brandywell in Derry, for example. The Brandywell is, after all, the home of a club which plies its trade in the FAI’s domestic league. Add to that the fact that several current Ireland internationals, such as Darron Gibson, James McClean and Shane Duffy all hail from Derry, while some current and former Ireland youth internationals make up the Derry City squad.
And with so many people in the north already supporting the Republic of Ireland rather than Northern Ireland, would staging the odd youth game (perhaps even just one) in Derry really make much of a difference to that reality? Probably not.