Opportunity beckons to pledge allegiance
COULD a decision made in the Bahamas last Wednesday have a genuine impact on Ireland's World Cup qualification hopes?
It seems like a far-fetched notion, but the decision of FIFA Congress to change their rules on players switching allegiance between countries may have a knock-on effect for Giovanni Trapattoni and Irish managers of the future.
Previously, individuals who had represented one country at underage level could only change their mind and choose to pledge their international future to another before their 21st birthday.
By voting to remove that age limit, the delegates have paved the way for multiple switches around the world and Ireland will be one country that looks to capitalise.
It means that anyone who is Irish qualified, through parents or grandparents, that has not played a full senior international for another nation is now fair game to be approached.
Several players, who believed their chance to consider their options was gone, will now have food for thought if Trapattoni makes an approach. Here, we have compiled an XI who could hypothetically declare for Ireland -- some are already lost causes, but others may yet pop onto the scene either now or in the future.
ANDY LONERGAN (25)
The Preston keeper is one of the rising stars of the Championship and has commanded Premier League interest with a series of promising displays. Played one U-16 game for Ireland, before deciding to go down the English route and it wouldn't be a surprise to see Fabio Capello take an interest at senior level -- such is their paucity of netminding resources that there was some speculation that Ireland capped Keiren Westwood against Nigeria for the same reasons.
KYLE NAUGHTON (20)
Liam Brady has already tried and failed to lure the Sheffield United star into the ranks and he has since progressed into the England U-21 set-up. Reports suggested that Manchester United are the latest to contemplate a bid for the right-back. Looks like a lost cause but no cut-off point on giving up hope until Capello takes notice.
ANTON FERDINAND (24)
This would be a strange one if it ever came to pass and Ireland came face-to-face with England, and his brother Rio. They qualify on his mother's side, and while Anton made a number of appearances for England at U-21 level, his terrible run of form since joining Sunderland has resulted in his reputation plummeting. We don't have many centre-halves though ...
MATT KILGALLON (25)
Kilgallon, who made five appearances for England's U-21's while at Leeds, was over the age of 21 when Steve Staunton sounded him out. Now at Sheffield United, he has developed into a workmanlike Championship defender who might add depth to the defensive ranks if he was interested.
GARY CAHILL (23)
The Bolton defender could become ineligible as early as tomorrow if he gets a cap in the likely England stroll against Andorra, and he refused Staunton's call at a time when there was no obstacle in the way. Hard to argue with his decision, but a shame all the same.
JAMIE O'HARA (22)
When Liam Brady was appointed assistant boss, he approached O'Hara and said he was 'receptive' to a call-up before it transpired that the Spurs midfielder was ineligible due to his age. That obstacle is gone now, but since then O'Hara has been capped at English U-21 level so the moment may have passed.
MARK NOBLE (22)
Another grandparent link who holidayed here as a child but pretty much no hope of Noble being converted to the cause as Ireland have tried and failed before. The West Ham midfielder is preparing for the European U-21 Championship with England, and is tipped as a certainty to progress to senior international honours.
BARRY MAGUIRE (19)
Dutch-born with an Irish father, Maguire is not quite affected by the rule change but it means there is less pressure to rush a decision. Has represented the Netherlands at underage level, but Ireland want to bring the Den Bosch player this direction. A midfielder who can also operate in defence.
HOGAN EPHRAIM (21)
The QPR winger, who can operate on either flank, has represented England from U-16 to U-19 level but, with a Nigerian father and Irish mother, he is free to consider his options. No time limit on making his choice, but Ireland would need to act quickly.
KEVIN NOLAN (26)
So one of the great myths becomes a truism. Kevin Nolan is now, finally, eligible to play for Ireland. Two English U-21 caps and his age meant the Newcastle man was unable to represent Ireland when Steve Staunton and others were talking about making approaches. Is worth a look.
GARY McSHEFFREY (26)
Teenage star who never progressed to the levels anticipated. Staunton got on the trail but realised again that a combination of a previous English youth appearance and advanced years meant he was beyond the deadline. Now on books at Birmingham but ended season on loan at Nottingham Forest; troubled by injury in latter years.
And some others ...
Kevin McCann (Hibernian), Matt Connolly (QPR), Darren Ambrose (Crystal Palace), Zander Diamond (Aberdeen), Adam Hammill (Liverpool)