Gerry "Mainland" Armstrong

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”.

3 Responses so far.

  1. Alex says:

    I’ve just noticed this blog and you’ve raised some interesting points. However, I am afraid I have to take issue with this post…

    The IFA don’t want to resort to poaching players. They’ve openly challenged what the FAI are doing, correctly labelling it dishonourable and unfair.

    I am genuinely astonished at the way the FAI have been behaving. The IFA have made great strides in trying to eliminate sectarianism, to foster a sense of belonging and inclusion in this new, pluralist Northern Ireland. Yet the FAI seek to undermine all this good work. After all, who cares about the advancement of society in Ulster when the Irish Republic could have a marginally better football team? The fact they’ve directed their efforts towards Catholics also demonstrates a sectarian policy towards recruitment, which is deplorable.

    Don Givens: “I’m sure the North are not too happy with us. They have a small pool of players but in the long run, the less good results they get the more the dual players will want to come to us.”

    What a classless statement.

    I’d previously wished ROI well in internationals, but I now sincerely hope they fail ever to qualify for anything. Disgusting behaviour.

  2. Ryan Kelly says:

    Hi Alex, thanks for taking an interest.

    However, I find a number of your points objectionable.
    Firstly, before I start, I must stress that I find the term “poaching” to be risible, but how do you know that “the IFA don’t want to resort to poaching”? I know that they are, and have been for quite some time, encouraging dual national players to play for their association.

    Secondly, how can you blame the FAI for being a divisive element in Northern Irish society? It’s already divided, inherently so! Leaving aside the fact that accusations of “tapping up” are unfounded in the first place – no one ever considers that an Irish national may decide of his own volition to play for a team he’s both eligible for and wants to play for – how do you know that the FAI are directing their efforts towards Catholics? You simply don’t. If you or anyone else can provide evidence of a sectarian policy at the FAI, I’ll happily concede, but one does not exist.

    Finally, Don Givens’ statement is innocuous.

    You might want to have a read of Daniel Collins’ article here:

  3. Sean says:

    well said Alex.

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