By Seán Creedon
Due to our high emigration down through the centuries, it’s no surprise that so many British-born players have declared for the Republic of Ireland. The only surprise is that there have been very few players from the USA declaring for the land of their forefathers.
When FIFA changed their rules in 1964 to allow players to play for countries other than that of their birth, if they qualified by ancestry or residence to claim citizenship of their adopted country, it was good news for the FAI.
Manchester United’s Shay Brennan, who was born in Manchester to County Carlow parents, was the first player to avail of the new rule.
Brennan, who had been named in England’s preliminary squad for the 1962 World Cup, made his Republic of Ireland debut in a World Cup qualifier against Spain in May 1965 and went on to win 19 caps, and was later player-manager of Waterford in the League of Ireland.
Over the past 59 years we have seen a steady flow of players declaring for the land of the parents and indeed in many cases grandparents.
Two years after Brennan, Charlie Gallagher became the first Scottish-born player to be capped.
The inside forward, who qualified through his Donegal-born parents, won only two caps. Others, who declared in the seventies included John Dempsey, who was the first-ever Irish player to be sent off against Hungary in 1969.
Continue reading in this year’s Saint Patrick’s Day Annual