Green light Given for cross-border raids
SHAY GIVEN has backed the FAI's policy of recruiting players born in Northern Ireland who are willing to declare for the Republic of Ireland.
And the Donegal man, who revealed today that he was eligible to play for Northern Ireland as his late mother was born in the six counties, says that players should be allowed to make up their own minds on their international futures without being forced into a decision by officials.
Fans and officials in Northern Ireland were upset to see two Northern-born players (Darron Gibson and Marc Wilson) in Giovanni Trapattoni's squad for last night's defeat by Brazil, while there is even more anger since it emerged last week that Derry-born Everton starlet Shane Duffy has also declared for the Republic.
Former Republic manager Brian Kerr waded into the debate yesterday when he described the Republic's recruitment policy on players born North of the border as "wrong, unfair, seedy and predatory" -- even though Kerr, in his time as manager of the Republic's underage sides, capped enough Northern-born players to fill a team, such as Ger Doherty, Mark McKeever, Ger Crossley, Henry McStay, Andrew Kilmartin, Tony Shields, Charlie McCormack, Neil McCafferty and Saul Deeny.
But Given has welcomed the arrival of players like Wilson (Antrim) and Duffy (Derry) on the scene for the Republic.
"I could have played for Northern Ireland as my mum was from Castlederg in Tyrone, so it's up to the players," says Given, who was born in Lifford, Co Donegal, less than a mile across the border from Stranbane in Tyrone.
"We have a small squad and if we get players from the moon who have an Irish grandparent and want to play for us, I think we can't pick and choose. We have to go for the strongest players we can get.
"If you look back at the Jack Charlton era, we had a lot of players who were English-born but had Irish grandparents and that was arguably the strongest Irish team we ever had, so we need to look at it.
"As far as I am aware, it's up to the players to choose who they want to play for and I think it's great they want to pick the Republic of Ireland," added Given, who was delighted to see Wigan's James McCarthy win his first cap on a night when Given and Kevin Kilbane reached 103 appearances, breaking Steve Staunton's record.
"It was great for James to make his debut, especially as it was against Brazil. He will look back on that in years to come, but we need young players like that coming into the squad to make us stronger for the European Championships.
"Myself and Kevin broke the caps record last night but it wasn't about that. We're not just playing to get caps, we want to bring something to the squad and the team, and the day we're not doing that we will step aside."
Given added: "I hope to be around for a good bit yet. I see that Edwin van der Sar signed a new contract that takes him up to 41. So some keepers do get better with age and experience and hopefully that'll be the case with me."