SINCE the English-born Shay Brennan won his first cap in 1965, Ireland have ruthlessly exploited the ancestry rule with great results.
Successive managers have made good use of the diaspora to top up their playing pools.
But it has not been all one-way traffic — because some players who had two Irish parents, or were even born and reared here, opted to pursue international careers elsewhere.
Here, SunSport assembles a strong starting XI featuring players to have lined out for 11 different countries but who could have pulled on the green shirt instead.
And there is a decent-looking substitutes’ bench to boot.
Gerry Gregg (Turks and Caicos Islands)
DUBLINER Gregg was a former minor hurler with his county, who played football for Palmerstown Rangers as a teenager before making a single League of Ireland B appearance for UCD.
The electrician initially moved to the Cayman Islands in 1994 before later settling in the Turks & Caicos Islands.
He played for one of its leading clubs, KPMG United, and was invited to coach the goalkeepers in the national squad before obtaining citizenship in 2004.
Gregg was put straight into the side for two World Cup qualifiers against Haiti.
They lost 7-0 on aggregate but it was an improvement on their first foray four years earlier.
On that occasion, they had been beaten 16-0 over two legs by St Kitts and Nevis.
Gregg won a third cap against Bahamas two years later and he still lives in the British overseas territory.
Roberto Lopes (Cape Verde)
FOR a long time, it looked as though Roberto Lopes’ international highlight would be a late substitute outing in the Ireland Under-19s’ 3-0 win over Italy in 2011.
The Crumlin native came on for Samir Carruthers in a game in which Matt Doherty, John Egan, Jeff Hendrick and Graham Burke all played.
But while that quartet have all gone on to represent Ireland at senior level, defender Lopes’ recognition has come for a group of volcanic islands off the west coast of Africa.
The Shamrock Rovers star qualifies for the former Portuguese colony through his father and after a few attempts at contacting him were lost in translation, he was called up for the first time six months ago.
Lopes, 27, won his first cap in a friendly against Togo and, although he was not selected for an African Cup of Nations qualifier the following month, he will be hoping to earn a recall.
Ethan Ampadu (Wales)
BORN in Exeter, Ampadu qualified not only for England but for Wales through his mother and Ireland and Ghana through his father.
His dad Kwame was born in Bradford to an Irish mother and Ghanaian father with the family subsequently relocating to Dublin, where he shone for Belvedere.
A move to Arsenal, for whom he made two first-team appearances, and four caps for the Ireland Under-21s followed at the start of a decent career spent mainly in England’s lower leagues.
It was hoped his days in a green shirt might prompt his son to follow suit but his first cap came with England’s Under-16s before he definitively threw in his lot with Wales.
Now 19 and on loan to Leipzig from Chelsea, the defender, who can also play in midfield, lined out against Martin O’Neill’s Ireland in Wales’ 4-1 Nations League win in Cardiff in 2018.
Ken Finn (USA)
ALTHOUGH he was normally a left-back, Finn was both versatile in positions — even playing up front — and in different sports.
Born in New York in 1937, he moved to Dundalk as a toddler and showed promise in both Gaelic football and soccer.
He chose the latter and joined his hometown club as an apprentice.
In 1958, he helped the Lilywhites defeat Shamrock Rovers in the FAI Cup final but, a year later, he emigrated to the USA.
Because of his birthplace, he quickly acquired a passport and made his debut for the USA against Mexico in a World Cup qualifier in November 1960.
He won his second and final cap against Colombia three months later.
Because of an injury he was moved to goalkeeper at half-time, with his side 2-0 down.
He did not concede and impressed with his handling further for New York GAA.
Jamie Bosio (Gibraltar)
BOSIO’S Gibraltarian parents Paul and Jeanie moved to Dublin where his dad would study medicine in the Royal College of Surgeons.
Born in the Rotunda hospital in 1991, Jamie lived on Griffith Avenue, went to school in Marino and played for Home Farm between the ages of five and eight.
But then the family moved to England for two years before permanently relocating to ‘The Rock’.
Although most people there would support England, he continued to follow Ireland with Shay Given and Robbie Keane his childhood heroes.
Gibraltar’s admission as a Uefa member opened up a route to international football and the midfielder made his debut in 2015, earning 12 caps over the next three years.
He was on the bench for both games against Ireland in the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign.
Declan Rice (England)
THE West Ham player was not the first to win senior caps for Ireland before a switch to another country.
But it is safe to say that Alex Bruce deciding to throw in his lot with Northern Ireland after playing once under both Steve Staunton and Giovanni Trapattoni did not cause quite as much fuss.
First picked by Ireland at Under-16 level, Rice reaffirmed his commitment despite increased and obvious interest from England.
After winning three caps in the first half of 2018, the midfielder then asked to be left out by Martin O’Neill to consider his future.
Neither O’Neill nor Mick McCarthy could persuade him to stick rather than twist, with Rice declaring for England in February 2019 and his debut coming a month later.
Rory Fallon (New Zealand)
BORN in Gisborne, New Zealand, Fallon’s paternal grandfather Peter hailed from Longford.
And his dad Kevin — who was born in England — later spent three seasons as a centre-half with Sligo Rovers.
He later moved to New Zealand and was their assistant coach when the country reached its first World Cup finals in 1982.
Rory signed for Barnsley as a trainee and trained with Shelbourne in 2002 with an eye to a loan move which did not materialise.
The forward was never approached to play for Ireland, much to his dad’s surprise.
Kevin said: “If you looked down a list of players’ names, you couldn’t get a more Irish one.”
Capped by England up to Under-20 level, he only became eligible for New Zealand again in 2009.
He scored on his debut, and in the World Cup play-off against Bahrain, and played in all three games at the 2010 finals. Now retired, he is the All Whites’ No 2.
Darren Fletcher (Scotland)
THERE has been regular movement of people from the west of Ireland to Scotland in search of work and that is one half of the Fletcher family background.
Darren’s grandparents were migrant workers who left Achill Island for work but returned to rear a family.
Among their eight children was Bridie Gielty, who followed in her parents’ footsteps by moving to Scotland in search of better employment opportunities.
There she met Bobby, who was a semi-professional footballer himself, and Darren was one of their children.
But while then-Ireland boss Brian Kerr was aware of his Irish roots, he was unable to dissuade the then-Manchester United man from sticking with the country of his birth and he won 80 Scottish caps from 2003 to 2017.
Brandon O’Neill (Australia)
O’Neill this year joined Pohang Steelers, who have won a joint-record three Asian Champions Leagues – but Covid-19 means he has yet to play for them.
But he did line out in South Korea last June, making his senior Australia debut in a 1-0 loss in Busan.
Given it was a friendly, he could still in theory play for Ireland and the midfield man has always made it clear that he was open-minded about which country he would like to represent.
Although he was born and reared in Perth, he speaks with a Dublin accent with his parents Myles and Lorraine leaving their home in Rathfarnham behind to move Down Under.
The grandson of a former FAI junior council member, his A-League debut was for Perth Glory.
But he came to prominence with Sydney FC, catching the eye of Martin O’Neill.
Ayman Ben Mohamed (Tunisia)
BORN in London to an Irish mother and Tunisian father, Ben Mohamed moved to Dublin aged two where his footballing skills were honed.
He played with UCD, Longford Town and Bohemians and was called up to a home-based Ireland Under-21 squad by Noel King but nothing came of it.
But a shock Tunisian call-up while he was at Bohs was followed by a move to one of the country’s top clubs, ES Tunis.
Injuries and managerial changes stalled his progress but then it all started to come together.
He helped the club win the Africa Champions League in 2018 and 2019 and, in between, he was part of the Tunisian team which reached the semi-finals of the African Cup of Nations.
Last summer, he moved closer to home when he joined France’s Le Havre on a three-year deal.
Eamon Zayed (Libya)
BORN and reared in south Dublin, Zayed has never been afraid of travel either at club or international level.
There were two spells in England, either side of time with Bray Wanderers, and he has also plied his trade in Norway, Iran, Malaysia and the USA, where he has been for the past four years.
Capped by Ireland up to Under-21 level, the highlight of his time in a green shirt came when he played in all four games at the 2003 World Youth Cup.
With a Tunisian dad and Libyan grandparents, he had options and he pursued the latter in 2010 just as his club at the time, Sporting Fingal, was folding.
He played in World Cup and African Cup of Nations qualifiers and the PanArab Games, with his only goal coming in a friendly against Equatorial Guinea.
JOHN FILAN (played for) Australia
(2 caps, 1992-97)
How he qualified Grandparent
LUCAS NEILL Australia
(96 caps, 1996-2013)
PADDY CRERAND Scotland
(16 caps, 1961-65)
MARTIN KEOWN England
(43 caps, 1992-2002)
ED KELLY USA
(2 caps, 1975)
Qualified Born, reared in Dublin
CORNELIUS CASEY USA
(4 caps, 1964)
Qualified Born, reared in Kerry
HARRY KANE England
(45 caps, 2015-)
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