Doing a Darren Gibson

Darren Bent Tottenham Hotspur 2008/09 Darren Gibson Manchester United Manchester United V Tottenham Hotspur (Man Utd win on penalties (4-1)AET 01/03/09 The Carling Cup Final at Wembley Stadium Photo Robin Parker Fotosports International
One of the funniest things in sport this summer has been the futile efforts of the IFA to stop players from the north playing for the Republic. Darren Gibson of Manchester United is the best-known case. He’s from Derry and after playing at youth level for Northern Ireland, he opted to play for the Republic of Ireland. It didn’t go down well in Belfast. More recently the IFA took a case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne to stop Daniel Kearns doing exactly the same thing – and lost. At this stage the IFA are getting seriously worried about the speed of leakage. This past year alone, two other notable players – Marc Wilson and Shane Duffy – have crossed the border to join up with the Republic.

What the IFA fails to see – or maybe pretends to fail to see – is that this is about more than football. The truth is that half the population in the north feel no sense of loyalty to the Northern Ireland football team. I remember being in Lagan College, a Protestant-Catholic integrated school, on a day when the Republic of Ireland were due to play Northern Ireland. The youngsters were engaged in good-natured banter but their allegiances divided with laser-like precision: Catholics were rooting for the Republic’s team, Protestants for the Northern Ireland team. Footballers do have their careers in mind when they switch to the south – if you play for a team with a high profile and some prospect of success, you’ll have a higher chance of show-casing your talents. It’s also about the instinctive loyalty many northern players feel towards the south alongside a distaste for the sectarianism still rooted in the support base of the Northern Ireland team.

There’s a simple answer to the problem, just as there’s a simple answer to the decline of club soccer north and south of the border: get rid of the border. An island this size hasn’t the luxury of dividing itself in two and then trying to organize club and ‘national’ teams as if the other lot weren’t there. Whether the south’s body, the FAI, would be for such a move is uncertain; the top people in the IFA would certainly be implacably opposed. The Windsor Park lot would prefer their leaky tub to go down with all hands rather than join hands with the rest of the island. So they go on stabbing themselves, leaking top-footballer life-blood, and blaming everyone else for what’s happening. Clever. Very clever.

5 Responses to Doing a Darren Gibson

  1. 文王廷 August 4, 2010 at 5:48 pm #


  2. hoboroad August 5, 2010 at 7:34 am #

    Great Blog post Jude well done.

  3. Jim Lynch August 5, 2010 at 2:49 pm #

    Soccer has always been a contentious sport in the north of Ireland. My father was a great supporter of Belfast Celtic but in 1948 he lost all interest in the sport after the despicable behavior of most but not all Lindfiel fans on the 26th Dec of that year.
    Jimmy Jones a Protestant who played for Celtic was thrown over a wall and kicked unconscious by the Lindfield fans and sustained a broken leg. Two other Celtic players were seriously hurt as well.
    This happened at Windsor Park the bastion of so called Ulster soccer.
    Amazing the “know-it-alls” in the north wonder why Nationalists don’t want to play for their national team.
    Hell the north of Ireland is not even a country so why do they insist on having their own team.
    The unionist mindset has never changed over the years. Just ask Neil Lennon.
    The north of Ireland having their own team is like the borough of Manhattan having their own national team.
    It’s a total joke.

  4. Anonymous January 6, 2011 at 10:22 am #

    It appears that there is bitterness is every crevice of the internet.

    The problem of defection has been has been deemed “unfair and predatory” by Brian Kerr, so your pro-nationalist view carries no weight. There is no problem up North with Gibson playing for the Republic, it is simply because he took support and training from the IFA only to turn his back and run.

    The IFA do an excellent job at making Northern Ireland football inviting to all, hence why UEFA (The European governing body of football, in case you didn’t know) awarded Northern Irish fans as the best in Europe.

    O, and if it was so easy to accomplish your poor-worded analogy of joining hands with the Republic, why doesn’t the IRA stop fighting (a losing battle) for Irish independence and simply join hands with our British neighbours?

    You my friend, need to be better and not bitter. The world is changing and the sooner your generation is dead and buried, the better.


  5. Anonymous March 1, 2011 at 11:23 pm #

    i can’t believe for one second a man who went to lagan college posted this. i went to the same school. i respect peoples options but saying the answer to everything in NI is to join a SEPRATE country ROI to fix everything is wrong. 1st off it will just never happen no matter hw much u say it 70% of NI dont want it to. and Ireland cant even look after is small country already let alone adding NI to it and probly the riots that would go along with it if it ever did happen, and ever1 in NI knows what happen in irish league matchs between probs and catholics is all banter people love it for that, dont be so stuck up!