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07th Dec 2022

The 10 England World Cup footballers who could have played for Ireland

Robert Redmond

England World Cup Ireland

10 members of Gareth Southgate’s side could have played for Ireland.

There are 10 members of England’s 2022 World Cup squad who could have represented the Republic of Ireland, including one player who did play for the Boys in Green before switching allegiance to the country of his birth.

So, in no particular order, here are the players from England’s 26-man squad who were eligible to play for Ireland.

Declan Rice

Let’s start with the current England player who actually played for Ireland’s senior team. Rice played three times for the Boys in Green back in 2018, with all of his appearances coming in friendlies. The London-born midfielder qualified for Ireland through his Irish-born parental grandparents, who originated from Douglas in Cork.

The midfielder was named man of the match on his debut against Turkey in March 2018. Rice then played for Ireland against France, and made his only appearance for the Irish team in Dublin in a friendly win against the United States at the Aviva Stadium.

The midfielder was, again, named man of the match and was the best footballer on the pitch. It was evident that Rice was a few levels above some of his teammates, particularly in midfield, and had the potential to earn 100 caps and even captain the side. This isn’t speaking in hindsight. I covered the game and wrote immediately after the final whistle about how important Rice could be to the Irish national team.

Yet, even then, there were a sense that Rice could switch allegiance to England, and that’s exactly what the he did. The midfielder has earned 35 caps for the Three Lions and will be a key player for Gareth Southgate’s side in Qatar. He is still just 23, and could even end up captaining England.

Jack Grealish

Grealish is another player who was in the Irish system and had represented the underage teams for several years. The Birmingham-native qualified for Ireland as three of his grandparents were Irish. He also played Gaelic sports growing up.

Grealish’s talent was evident from an early age and he had been tipped for excellence since he was a teenager. Unlike Rice, he didn’t make an appearance for the Ireland senior team. Grealish was named Ireland Under-21 player of the year in March 2015, and went to the awards ceremony in Dublin with his family.

However, two months later, Grealish opted against a call-up to the senior squad when Martin O’Neill tried to include him for a friendly against England, and a Euro 2016 qualifier against Scotland.

The Aston Villa winger, who arguably should have been included in the senior squad sooner, was starring in the Premier League at the time and had caught the full attention of the English FA. Grealish would switch allegiance and initially play for England’s Under-21 team before making his senior debut in September 2020.

Harry Kane

England captain Harry Kane has strong Irish roots as his parental grandparents were from Galway.

According to The Connacht Tribute, Kane’s grandfather – Michael John Kane – was born in Letterfrack, in the Connemara region of Galway, and lived in the area before emigrating to London.

The England and Spurs captain still has relatives in Galway and has visited the area in the past. Kane, however, has stated that he never had ambitions to play for any national team other than England.

The Tottenham striker is on the verge of becoming the country’s record goalscorer and won the Golden Boot at the 2018 World Cup.

James Maddison

The Coventry native qualified for Ireland through an Irish-born grandparent. According to The Irish Independent, Mick McCarthy approached Maddison about switching allegiance in 2019, but the midfielder had his heart set on playing for the country of his birth.

Maddison’s decision to stick with England has been justified. After largely being overlooked by Southgate, Maddison’s excellent form meant he couldn’t be ignored for the World Cup squad.

Since the start of last season, the Leicester City midfielder has scored 18 goals and registered 12 assists in the Premier League, the most goal involvements of any England midfielder.

Callum Wilson

The Newcastle United striker is eligible to play for Ireland through a grandparent and seemingly came closer than most on the list to representing the Boys in Green – with the obvious exception of Declan Rice and Jack Grealish.

Martin O’Neill scouted the Coventry born striker ahead of Euro 2016. “I think he’s a very good player,” the then-Ireland manager said in 2016.

“We’re in the process and have been checking it out. I’ve seen him a number of times.”

However, by the 2015/16 season, Wilson was a Premier League striker and scored five goals in 13 appearances for Bournemouth. Eventually, he was called up to the England senior team in 2018 and scored on his debut against the United States.

Wilson, who was also eligible to play for Jamaica, was included in Southgate’s squad for the 2022 World Cup and came off the bench to set up Grealish to score in a 6-2 win over Iran.

Kalvin Phillips

Phillips has earned 23 caps for England and became a key player for Southgate during Euro 2020.

The Leeds midfielder, like Wilson, was also eligible to play for Ireland and Jamaica. He is of Irish descent on his mother’s side.

Yet, despite only making his England debut in 2020, and never representing the country at underage level, Phillips never appeared to be on the FAI’s radar.

Conor Gallagher

Gallagher was perhaps the surprise inclusion in Southgate’s squad for the 2022 World Cup, but the midfielder has played for England from the Under-17 level up to the seniors. He was part of the team that won the Under-17 World Cup in 2017.

Ahead of that tournament, Gallagher’s father confirmed that the Chelsea midfielder was also eligible to play for Ireland and Scotland. Gallagher, however, has never appeared likely to switch allegiance from his native England.

Conor Coady

Liverpool native Coady was eligible to play for Ireland through an Irish grandparent. The Everton centre-back, however, has been involved in the England set-up since he was a teenager.

Coady, who has earned 10 senior England caps, played for the country of his birth at underage level from Under-16 level up to Under-21s. He was also part of the England squad which reached the final of Euro 2020 and is in the World Cup squad in Qatar.

Harry Maguire

Maguire was eligible to play for Ireland through his grandparents, and could also have played for Northern Ireland.

The Sheffield-born defender never appeared close to playing for either Irish team though.

Maguire made his debut for the England senior team in 2017 and has been a regular for the Three Lions ever since.

Jude Bellingham.

England’s midfield star is eligible to play for Ireland through his father Mark, who is of Irish descent.

Mark Bellingham, who has a talented non-league striker in England and a policeman, tweeted a photo of a young Jude wearing an Ireland kit.

Mark also referred to himself as ‘half-Irish’ in a tweet from 2020.

Bellingham is from Stourbridge in the West Midlands and came through Birmingham City’s academy before signing for Borussia Dortmund.

First published on Nov 25, 2022.