Spurs on-loan midfielder Jamie O’Hara is currently plying his trade at Fratton Park and producing some stirring displays in an attempt to keep Portsmouth afloat until the end of the season.
Pompey’s current plight has been well-documented and much credit was bestowed upon O’Hara when he agreed to return for a second loan stint and help out the beleaguered South Coast outfit rather than join another Premier League club.
He has turned out to be one of Portsmouth’s best players during a torrid campaign and was unlucky not to be involved in Tottenham’s first eleven this term.
O’Hara has represented England at U21 level but under current FIFA rules can now represent another country at senior level. The previous FIFA ruling allowed international players to change their allegiances up to Youth level only.
O’Hara has been quoted at saying he is keeping his international options open until after the World Cup but that the Republic of Ireland (for whom he qualifies) are his second choice behind the country of his birth, England.
Should O’Hara plump for Giovanni Trapattoni’s charges, would his inclusion be fair considering it would come at the expense of some other up-and-coming Irish-born players?
Most players will have a good idea as to whether or not they are going to be able to make the step up to the senior grade once they have completed their stint at international U21 level.
This makes the decision to allow players to seemingly change allegiances all the more galling when federations have invested so much time and money nurturing a player’s talent from childhood right through to U21 only to see the player turn around and play for another country.
The Republic of Ireland has a long and proud tradition of fielding players who were not actually born on the island itself but qualified through parent and even grand-parentage rulings.
Many of those players claimed Irish nationality and played a huge part in Ireland qualifying for Euro 88 and Italia 90. The likes of Ray Houghton, John Aldridge and even Tony Cascarino – who revealed in his memorable autobiography \’The Secret Life of Tony Cascarino’ that he didn’t even possess a proper Irish passport until well into his international career.
Did it matter to Irish fans back then where our payers were born as long as they helped in the international team qualify for major tournaments? Not at all.
The only difference with Jamie O’Hara’s decision is that he is clearly stating that the Republic is his second choice behind England.
Based on that assumption, I would honestly have an issue with O’Hara playing for the Republic at the expense of a young Irish-born player who has come up through the ranks of the FAI’s youth setup.
Midfield is not an area the Republic of Ireland is blessed in terms of creativity due to the absence of both Stephen Ireland and Andy Reid for various reasons.
It seems unlikely Trapattoni will sacrifice Glenn Whelan or Keith Andrews for the more attacking talents of O’Hara anyway such is the Italian’s preference for two holding central-midfielders.
However, as with most fickle Irish football fans, were O’Hara to come of the bench and score a crucial goal in one of our upcoming European Championship qualifiers my reservations would be quickly forgotten.
All Irish fans desperately want Ireland to qualify for the next major football tournament. Do fans really care what the previous nationality of the players who score the goals is as long as qualify?
What do you think?
Ger McCarthy is author of the book Off Centre Circle, which chronicles the curious life of a West Cork League junior footballer.