2017 was an ultimately disappointing year for Irish football. Despite some memorable moments, failure to reach the World Cup could see big changes in squad personnel.
The ‘granny rule’ has been a loophole in FIFA’s rule book that has served Ireland well in the past. Despite some fans being opposed to it, it has paved the way for many proud England-born Irishmen to pull on the green jersey, with Kevin Kilbane being a prime example.
There is an argument that attention should be paid to youth development. However, this is a timely process with no guarantee of success, especially given Ireland’s current lack of depth. Most countries use the granny rule and many eligible payers have a genuine pride in their Irish heritage and are entitled to represent Ireland.
Cyrus Christie, David McGoldrick and Scott Hogan have all been granny rule recruits by Martin O’Neill with Will Keane and Lukas Jutkiewicz the latest to declare. The rule could be further pursued in 2018 with an endless list of players available for Ireland.
In an ideal world, the likes of Nathan Redmond or Callum Wilson would be realistic options but this may not be the case. The former is still eligible for Ireland by virtue of only having featured in friendlies for England.
Here we have compiled a list of five players who could more realistically be persuaded to pull on the green jersey should they be pursued.
5. Grant Hall (QPR)
Former Spurs defender Hall has recently returned from injury and has a similar playing style to Shane Duffy.
A huge threat in the box and capable of playing as a holding midfielder, Hall could be a decent asset for Ireland. At 26, he is younger than some of Ireland’s other defensive options.
4. Patrick Bamford (Middlesbrough)
The 24-year-old teammate of Darren Randolph and Cyrus Christie, Bamford has represented both England and Ireland at youth level.
A dynamic striker who has played in a more withdrawn role of late which could be a factor in his less prolific game of late. Would add a different dynamic to Ireland’s striking options.
3. Callum Robinson (Preston North End)
A product of the Aston Villa academy system, Robinson is already surrounded by a strong Irish contingent at Preston.
Capable of playing up front as a support striker or on the wing, the 22-year-old could inject some further youth into Ireland’s attack.
2. Michael Johnston (Celtic)
A energetic, direct and skilful winger, Michael Johnston has already broken into the Celtic first team and could benefit from Jonny Hayes’ injury.
The 18-year-old has already drawn comparisons with Aiden McGeady and could join the Sunderland man and James McCarthy as the current Scotland-born players in the Ireland squad.
1. Jon Flanagan (Liverpool)
Probably the most unlikely out of this list but, like Redmond, the 24-year-old has yet to play competitively for England despite earning one cap.
Said to be proud of his Irish roots and could be open to a call-up given Ireland’s bareness in the full-back positions. Will need to get some game time first but a declaration for the Boys in Green is not a completely ridiculous notion.
Nick Menezes, Pundit Arena
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