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Madrid legend could have been an Irish ‘Don’

SWINFORD, Co Mayo, may seem to be the most unlikely of connections when you think of Alfredo di Stefano but the footballing legend insists that this is where relatives on his mother's side of the family hail from.

Initially, we thought he was playing a little joke on his visitors to his small office, and translator Carlos Lopez Barcello, an Atletico Madrid fan, fell into an animated conversation with di Stefano as we took our seats and waited patiently for a translation.

Carlos, an IT and website specialist with the FAI, looked somewhat incredulously at us, managed a little chuckle and gushed out: "Don Alfredo says that he could have played for Ireland and he's really serious about it!"

It was appropriate that the third member of our party, Republic of Ireland Futsal manager Derek O'Neill, was immediately able to present di Stefano with a Republic of Ireland No 9 jersey and the great man's face instantly lit up as he graciously took ownership.

Research by Real Madrid staff has discovered that there is indeed an Irish connection through the Griffin family and, under current FIFA regulations, Alfredo di Stefano would be eligible to declare for the Republic of Ireland.

Now what a coup that would have been!