Saturday 19 January 2019

Form of midfielder Stephen should end chase of hesitant Noble

Stephen Quinn in action against Georgia
Stephen Quinn in action against Georgia

GIVEN that he is English-born, lives in England and has played for England's underage teams, it's likely that Mark Noble spent last night watching his native country play their opening game in the Euro 2016 campaign against Switzerland.

We don't have spies in the Noble household so we have no idea what the West Ham United man was doing around 5pm on Sunday evening. Highly unlikely he was tuned into the all-Ireland hurling final on Sky (he probably lost interest once Cork, home-place of his grandparents, were knocked out). Also unlikely that he was following radio and online coverage of Ireland's Euro 2016 win in Georgia.

Noble, who played for England's U21s against Ireland in Cork, an Irish side containing current senior internationals Richard Keogh and Stephen Quinn, has tentatively raised the issue of him declaring for Ireland. Not borne from any great desire to wear the green shirt but because England won't pick him.

Sunday night in Tbilisi should end the debate here and now, as it would be unfair and unseemly if someone like Quinn would lose out to someone like Noble when it comes to the Ireland squad, the Ireland team and a possible place at the Euro 2016 finals.

Quinn's selection in central midfield raised some eyebrows in Tbilisi and back home, especially when that place in the starting XI appears to have come at the expense of Wes Hoolahan, our best attacking outlet.

Quinn, 28, has assembled all the elements of a wide-ranging CV: he played schoolboy and League of Ireland football, played every time he was asked at underage and senior international level. Players like Quinn, their emergence and their effort in places like Tbilisi are the reason why Ireland should not open the door for wannabe internationals like Mark Noble.

It should not be simply held against Noble that he played for England against Ireland. But neither should a path to the squad be cleared for Noble, Harry Kane or any of the other 'potential' recruits to the Irish cause. Quinn should not get a place in the Ireland squad simply because he has a Dublin accent and has played for St Pats, like anyone else he should get a spot in the team and the squad if he is good enough.

International football requires a lot of commitment. Nine of the players who featured against Oman in midweek then travelled to Tbilisi but played no part in the game. Not that it matters, but four of them (Richard Keogh, Alex Pearce, Anthony Pilkington and Rob Elliot) have English accents. They will all be undoubtedly disappointed to have not played in Georgia but their non-involvement will not prevent them from answering the next call-up. It was frustrating for them to make the long trek to Georgia but at least they got that far, while lads like Simon Cox, Damien Delaney and Paul McShane were back at home, 'only' on standby. None of them sulked their way out of future squads in frustration at not being picked.

That's why the chase of undecideds like Noble should go no further. Ability to play is one thing, willingness to play is another. Stephen Quinn has both and he showed that on a testing night in Tbilisi. So it would be ignoble for Noble to get a call ahead of him.

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