|Gerry Armstrong, “Catholic Player Mentor”|
Did you ever hear the one about “poaching”?
That’s right, the one where elements within the IFA and hordes of Northern Ireland fans propounded the notion that their neighbouring association, the FAI, was involved in nefarious activity around the football pitches of the north. Apparently scouts were sneaking into football grounds draped in their FAI apparel, (hoping not to be seen, mind you) with a notepad in hand, checking off the “Catholic-sounding names” in a bid to fulfil the FAI’s cunning plan to “sectarianise” football in Ireland. The ‘Child-Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was even used by some IFA fans to describe their theory.
Let that image sink in.
I wish I could say that I was jesting, but this is exactly the type of paranoid nonsense that emanated from those quarters. Amazingly that delusional school of thought continues to prevail among some sections of the Northern Ireland fan-base. I wonder then, did they feel that overwhelming wave of irony as it washed over them when Gerry Armstrong was appointed as the IFA’s new Elite Player Mentor?
Armstrong has been quite vocal in his opposition to footballers from the north playing for the FAI. He has also been quite vocal about what kind of tasks his new post demands. When James McClean announced his intentions to wait for a call up to the FAI, Gerry told us that it was imperative that he and James “have a chat”.
It is also rumoured that Armstrong has been approaching players who are currently in the FAI set up, some of whom having just played for the FAI as recently as two weeks ago, about switching to the IFA.
What’s that other one about the black kettle?
*Just to clarify, Gerry “Mainland” Armstrong is a nod to Gerry’s referral to Britain as “the mainland”.