All-Time Granny Rule Ireland XI

Sky Sports caused much controversy this week with their graphic displaying the breakdown of birthplaces of the current Irish squad – with almost half born outside Ireland.

It’s hardly a new phenomenon with Jack Charlton’s successful sides boasting a host of players born in the UK, and indeed stretches back to the 1960s. Here’s an all-time XI of Irish players born outside the country.

Alan Kelly

While Alan Kelly Snr, who won 47 Irish caps, was born in Bray he spent most of his career with Preston North End. It was here than Alan Jnr was born, but despite this he was always going to play for the country his father represented. Alan Snr’s other son Gary was also born in England but played for Ireland at underage level.

Shay Brennan

Brennan became the first second generation Irishman to represent Ireland in the mid 1960s. Born in Manchester to Irish parents, he made over 350 appearances for Manchester United, making his debut in the first game after the Munich air disaster, and was part of United’s European Cup winning team in 1968.

Mick McCarthy

An archetypal Yorkshireman, the former Ireland manager qualified for the country through his Irish father Charles and has said he was “well aware of my Irishness” growing up. He was late to international football, earning his first call-up at 25, but went on to win 57 caps.

Mark Lawrenson

The BBC pundit may provoke ire these days when referring to the England side as “we”, but he was an important part of Ireland’s sides in the late 70s and 80s. It was the aforementioned Alan Kelly Snr, a coach at Preston, who became aware of Lawrenson’s eligibility for the Republic through his Waterford-born grandfather. He went on to win 39 caps for his adopted country.

Chris Hughton

The London-born left-back became the first mixed-race player to win a cap for Ireland in 1979. His mother Christine hailed from Limerick and was delighted when he chose to represent her country of birth rather than England or his father’s Ghana. He made 53 appearances for the country and was later assistant manager during Brian Kerr’s reign.

Jason McAteer

Trigger merits inclusion if only for his crucial 2001 winner against Holland that basically earned qualification for the following year’s World Cup (give or take a play-off with Iran). Born in Tranmere, McAteer has admitted supporting England growing up but jumped at the chance of an international call-up from Jack Charlton through the controversial “granny rule”.

Ray Houghton

Possibly the most important of Ireland’s footballing exports, the Scottish-born midfielder will always be remembered for his stunning winners against England and Italy. He qualified for Ireland through his Donegal-born father and plumped for Jack Charlton’s team after being snubbed at underage level by the country of his birth.

Kevin Sheedy

There’s been an abundance of top-class midfielders born in the UK to represent Ireland, but Kevin Sheedy shades it over the likes of Andy Townsend and James McCarthy for his crucial Italia 90 equaliser against England. The Everton coach was born in Wales but was eligible through his County Clare-born father.

Kevin Kilbane

Despite an unspectacular career, Killer won 110 caps for his adopted country and earned cult status amongst fans. Although he was born in Preston, he turned down advances by England’s under-18 team as he always wanted to represent Ireland. Both of his parents hailed from Carlow and Kilbane allegedly once turned up to an English underage camp wearing an Irish shirt.

John Aldridge

As Scouse as they come, Alridge emerged at a time when England could boast the striking talents of Gary Lineker, and he was quick to accept an Irish call-up from Big Jack. He qualified through his maternal great-grandmother and went on to score 19 goals in 69 appearances.

Tony Cascarino

This week’s guest on Boylesports’ Betzone claimed in his autobiography that he never qualified for Ireland as his mother told him during his career that she was adopted. However, the FAI were quick to dispute this and assured that he was always eligible to play. Either way, he scored 19 goals in 88 appearances and was, for a time, Ireland’s record caps holder.