Joe Gamble is, to this day, the last League of Ireland-based player to be capped by the Irish national side.
The former Cork City and Limerick man was lining out for the Leesiders when the call came from Steve Staunton to say that he would be representing his country in Ireland’s friendlies in the United States in 2007. Gamble would go on to make his debut from the bench against Ecuador in May of that year, followed by a starting berth against Bolivia several days later.
With Glen Crowe and Jason Byrne having played for Ireland in the years before, it was hoped that the attitude that Irish-based players weren’t up to international football was slowly being chipped away – but since Gamble’s last appearance in green, there has been nothing. A decade-long wait that goes on.
The closest thing to a League of Ireland international came this past week when Sean Maguire, at Cork City up until a July move to Preston North End, came on for the last ten minutes in Friday’s World Cup qualifier against Moldova. Many were of the opinion that Maguire’s form at Turner’s Cross had already merited international selection and lamented the fact that the striker had to move to England for Martin O’Neill to notice him.
Speaking on Pundit Arena’s Irish football podcast The Mixer this week, Gamble himself also couldn’t quite believe it and went as far as to suggest that it shows a certain amount of disrespect to the footballing structure in the Irish domestic game:
“Sean himself was saying how much difference a year makes, the last time he was playing in the Aviva he was scoring the winner for Cork City in the FAI Cup final and lo and behold, ten months later he’s making a dream for himself playing for Ireland at senior level in a World Cup qualifier. Ten months is a massive, massive change in a football career and from where he was to where he is now is monumental.
“He deserves it. He did the business when he played and scored all the goals for Cork City, he was the main man and deserves a chance. My only disappointment would be, why wasn’t he included in the Irish squad when he was a Cork City player? I find it very hard to understand how. in the space of three months, he’s gone from ‘Sean Maguire, Cork City player,’ potentially playing for Ireland, a lot of calls, couldn’t get in the training squad, all of a sudden three months later he’s actually playing in a World Cup qualifier.
“That, to me, is disheartening and I think it’s a lack of respect for Irish clubs, being very honest, and coaches and anyone involved in the domestic league. It would have been great to have that, moreso for Cork City, great for them have have the prestige of one of the players currently playing with the international team as a Cork City player.
“That’s my only gripe with it, but I think Seani Maguire is a fantastic player, I’m sure he’s going on to have 50+ caps and have a great career.”
Hear more from Joe on this week’s episode of the Mixer, in which we also discuss a hugely positive week for the Irish national team along with our usual roundup of the latest League of Ireland action.