James McCarthy

It has been a difficult few months for any of us who follow the boys in green.

If the punch in the gut equaliser from Italy in Croke Park was the injury then the Henry handball in Paris was the insult.

For those of you who follow the Republic of Ireland then you’ll know about that sense of injustice.

It’s still there.

It just is.

So it was that last night that we started to move on.

Time to begin again.

The national team took to the field of play to take on Brazil in the Emirates stadium in a friendly match.

At times it sounded more like the crowd you would get at a women’s match.

The noise from the crowd was decidedly high pitched.

Thousands of Brazilian girls screamed in adoration as their heartthrob Kaka every time he touched the ball.

A largely male crowd will growl in anticipation as the play approaches a critical juncture. Or they will bark in collective anger if one of their guys is fouled.

The oestrogen-fuelled crowd at the Emirates had a different take on things.

For these very fetching soccer fans their “Joga Bonito” was all about Real Madrid’s playmaker with the matinee idol looks.

All Kaka needed to do was to be on the ball for a second anywhere on the field of play for his female following to be convulsed in screams of adoration.

As for the rest of his colleagues it was business as usual.

The boys in the canary yellow shirts romanced the ball across the turf at every opportunity. This was soccer with a smile on its face.

For the first half the Irish were, well Irish, we were dogged and determined. Only a cruel own goal a few minutes before the interval saw the Brazilians leave the field at halftime one nil up.

The second half say the South Americans ease up the gears.

Their second goal was pure samba.

It is why we love the game and why most of us love Brazil-even when they’re scoring against us.

Before that happened something took place that caused me a smile of satisfaction.

With 69 minutes played young James McCarthy received one of the louder Irish cheers on the night when he was summoned for an international debut in place of the tiring Liam Lawrence. Slotting in on the right side of midfield he didn’t look out of place.

After the game was over I sent a text to a senior club official at James’ first professional club-Hamilton Academical. The small west of Scotland club is where the lad was developed as a player. It was only right and fair to acknowledge what they had done for James and, now, for Irish soccer. It didn’t surprise me to learn from m the club official that he had spoken to James twice in the last couple of days. That is the kind of lad James is.

I had met this club official and young James on the same day in October 2008.

at new Douglas Park after he had endured a solid 45 minutes of racist abuse as he played towards the St.Mirren goal.

I sat among the St.Mirren crowd that day. The abuse was undeniable in its character and clearly audible.

Despite that it didn’t make it into any match report the following day.

Only the local paper-the Hamilton advertiser had a reporter there (Andy McGilvray) who didn’t have hearing problems.

Almost exactly a year later I interviewed James McCarthy after he had played in the green of Ireland at U 21 level against Georgia. That night in Shamrock Rover’s stadium in Tallaght it was clear that he had grown a bit in the year since I had first seen him. I also met with his mother and his sister that night.

James’ mother was incensed about the abuse that her teenage son had taken from soccer crowds in Scotland. She was happy that he now was playing in England where he was not a target for racists.

It was self evident that this young man wanted to play for Ireland and he had a strong Irish heritage both sides of his family.

The genealogy was strongest on his mother’s side James having a Donegal born grandparent.

I asked him that night in Tallaght what was it like to stand for Amhran na BhFiann facing the tricolour.

The west of Scotland lad was straight as an arrow.

“Brilliant. Really brilliant!”

As we say here in Ireland this lad is “one of our own.”

Back in January this year there was some speculation-and is all that it was- that James was about to reconsider his soccer nationality.


At the time this “story” broke I spoke with people inside the FAI (they were mystified).

A source inside the FAI told me that Trappatonni had been alerted to this story and would phone James immediately.

The same day I called the McCarthy household in Scotland and spoke with James’ father Willie.

I haven’t met James’ father Willie, but I know if I did I would like him.

After that conversation I was fully convinced that James was fully committed to the cause of Ireland.

However until James had played a game for the full international side then the Scots could have some hope.

Not any more.

Last night the issue was finally put to bed.

As far as FIFA is concerned James McCarthy is Irish.

Sadly, in the land of his birth that emotional attachment to Ireland is still considered something of a social crime.

I’m glad that he now plays in England where his soccer nationality isn’t an issue for anyone. Had he remained in Scotland the abuse would have continued.

It isn’t the fact that he isn’t playing for Scotland it is his country of choice.

That tells me that young James made the correct decision.

Just as I know I made the correct choice for my own midfield trio as they grow in a country where having an Irish name isn’t a No No.

James McCarthy’s “crime” was not “turning his back on Scotland” rather it was his country of choice.

This is the same choice made by, among others, Ray Houghton, Tommy Coyne and Aidan McGeady.

Across the soccer world it doesn’t raise an eyebrow for a player to declare for his country of ethnic origin rather than his country of birth.

Diomansy Camara is French born, but the Parisian plays for Senegal. Madjid Bougherra is French born, but plays for Algeria. This is their right and, I’m sure, that in civilised France there is no issue that they declared for their country of ethnic origin rather than the country of their birth. Bougherra qualifies to play for Algeria by dint of one Algerian born grandparent. These are the same qualification rules that allow Aidan McGeady and James McCarthy to play for Ireland.

In England many young men have declared to play for their emotional home rather than the country of their birth.

Here are a few:

Emmerson Boyce – London – Barbados   (Wigan Athletic)

Jason Roberts (MBE) – London – Grenada (Blackburn Rovers)

Jamal Ryce – London – Jamaica (Bristol City)

English crowds did not berate any of these players for being “traitors to England.”

I have yet to hear of any English born afro-Caribbean player being subjected to racist abuse because he “turned his back on England.”

As I write this I am learning that Jamie O’Hara of Spurs (currently on loan at Portsmouth) has intimated that he wishes to declare for the Republic of Ireland. The young midfielder is English born and once togged out for England U21, but did not take the field of play. Now the FAI is merely waiting for paperwork to clear

I am sure if he does play for Ireland then crowds in England will not subject him to the treatment that Aidan McGeady and James McCarthy have had to endure in Scotland.

Grown up societies do not behave in such a fashion.

Sadly only in the Scotland of many cultures does it remain a problem to be proud of an Irish heritage.

13 thoughts on “James McCarthy

  1. Francis O'Brien

    Mate how you can make a living from journalism astounds me.

    Answer me one question, when was the last Irish born player with a Scots granny ever played for Scotland?

  2. a mills

    We have plenty of English born guys who chose to play for Scotland and welcome they are. The Irish are only looking after themselves. fair enough. Mccarthy should know this…you are an Irishman not a Scotsman, you have actually hurt a nation, a nation that nuctured your talent. You are a liar if you say you were snubbed by Scotland when 14, hense your switch to Ireland. You were always going to choose them! I am deeply upset that a player such as you is lost to Scotland. The same goes for Mcgeady. Stuff you, We,ll be coming.

  3. Stu

    I find this article strange. This is not about Scotland and Ireland. It’s about why would a young man born in Scotland to Scottish parents choose another country – a country he has never lived in. What that other country is is a moot point.

    You’re very selective in your list of footballers. Do they all have parents born in the country of their own birth as McCarthey and McGeady do fro what I understand?

    And how about Owen Hargreaves who gets heaps of abuse for choosing England over Canada, and even he had English parentage.

    And it is fair to ask how Irish fans would feel if their two best young players – and McGeady and McCarthy are Scotland’s two best young players – were poached by another country.

    Because poached they were. There’s no other word for it and you know it full well. The FAI actively tries to recruit players in Scotland with Irish names/backgrounds at a young age. They do you know. Is that allowed? Probably. Is it sporting? Debatable. Yet just as the Irish were happy to get behind a team of Scots and Englishmen managed by one of the most English Englishmen ever to have walked this earth, it seems Irish fans will take anything just to put out a competitive team.

    There is no doubt that in the West of Scotland there is a strange Irish-Scottish-British thing going on that the majority of the country doesn’t understand and hates.

    You are wrong to turn this into a Scottish-Irish thing though. It was a personal decision by each of these boys and if you are happy that two genuinely Irish talents are being kept out of the Irish team by two Scottish lads who don’t even have Irish parents and have never lived in the country, then good for you.

    For me, as a Scotland football fan with no interest in religion whatsoever, I’m raging that two talents – especially McCarthy who will be a star – have been allowed to slip through the net. I blame the SFA, but also the FAI.

    However, when McCarthy hits the sights, I’m sorry but the boy will still be Scottish, taught his football in Scotland and – nice lad that you say he is – obviously brought up well in Scotland. If you then want to claim him – good for you. To me it’s all very sneaky though – perhaps if the FAI hadn’t followed a strategy of recruiting every player with Irish heritage and had instead reared its own players, you wouldn’t have to poach players from other countries.

    Sorry for the rant but I think the word “traitor” is perfect in a footballing sense for McCarthy and McGeady. Players get shouted at from terraces for a lot less. And by the way of course they don’t get shouted at in England – it wasn’t England they turned their back on. Imagine Rooney and Walcott choosing Germany over England. That’s the equivalant scenario. You seriously don’t think they’d get dog’s abuse???

  4. rossco

    your sarcasms hurts ryan it really does mate, but I am only trying to make you imagine what it would be like if the shoe was on the other foot, so your telling me if keane was a present scottish player and scoring goals for scotland you would happy for him and 100 percent behind him, and you wouldnt feel any resentment, well done mate your a such a nice guy. Its `hypothetical` but its a valid point to the discussion mate sorry you couldnt grasp that.

  5. Ryan

    Same way I feel about Ryan O’Leary declaring his allegiance to Scotland……..absolutely nothing.

    Hypothetically, no-one would have batted an eyelid if a young, raw Robbie Keane had chosen to do the same thing. That’s my hypothetical answer to the most hypothetical of questions, hypothetically speaking.

  6. rossco

    and one more thing….example…Irishman Robbie Keane chooses to play for Scotland when he was a boy as he had scottish grandfather…..how do you feel seeing him banging in the goals for Scotland?…..and how would u feel about Robbie Keane??

  7. Ryan

    By the same token then Rossco you would expel all these Englishmen who play for your beloved country? Do you class them as traitors also? Or do you simply think “He’s not a bad player. I’m glad he decided to pull on the dark blue and improve my country’s team.”?

    The question asked is, why do people have such strong feelings when someone is proud of and wishes to celebrate their heritage, especially when it relates to one country in particular?

    You have embraced the country, and your own sense of Scottishness, and fair play to you for that. I can respect that. However, not everyone feels that same deep sense of patriotism for whatever reasons. By the same token, can you not respect that?

    1. rossco

      tonybananas In footballing terms the countries I look out for to win at international level are Ireland, Northern Ireland and Wales, I cheered in my home when houghton scored against italy in the US and when Keane I think it was scored against Germany. Especially if Scotland arent there I go for Ireland. Not to mention Paddy Bonnar penalty heroics against Romania if my mind serves me right.

      Therefore you must be right I am an unthinking bigot/and or a racist!!!. It seems quite the oppositie to me I:m afraid and you should think more about your own mindset old chap.

      and Ryan I do take your point and on reflection maybe I am just feeling sore that we lost out on what will surely be a great player (watched him against liverpool last night he was excellent , now I feel worse!!) Lets face it its not the end of the world..

      the fact remains tho sadly, he said he chose Ireland because Scotland never picked him when he was 14 and felt snubbed. This indicates to me he made a rash decision against scotland on the back of `Scotland never picked me when I was 14 so they can forget it, they had their chance I:m not waiting for them, I:m too good for that` I wouldn:t jump ship to another country at 14 due to not being picked….I can understand players who do it later in their career when it becomes apparent they wont ever get picked for the country they come from.

      And thats what irks me and still leads me to believe he is being a traitor!

  8. tonybananas

    Rossco – “Here is a boy with Scottish parents, brought up in Glasgow where he was trained and developed by Scottish clubs and who decides that he has a greater affiliation to Ireland. Like it or not that is a snub to our country”

    The thin edge of the sectarian/racist wedge.

    You will struggle to meet a racist the world over who admits to being a racist. They always have justifiable grievances it appears.

    Perhaps you want to take up the issue of this “snub” with FIFA and approach them about changing the rules of international eligibility as you clearly have an issue with them.

    Or as Phil says, is it merely the nation of choice that irks you?

    Because for Majdid Bougherra you can swap “Scottish” for “French” and “Glasgow” for “Paris”. Would you still have a problem?

    If you swapped “Scottish” for “English” and “Glasgow” for “Yorkshire” you would have Stuart McCall. Did Stuart McCall snub England?

    And while we’re at it, how does someone going about delivering a “snub” to an entity which has made no approach to said individual?

    The mindset of the unthinking bigot.

    Or, to really push the boat out, for Brian McLean you can swap… well… Republic of Ireland for Northern Ireland… but that didn’t seem to annoy anybody much in Scotland for some unknown reason.

    By the way, James McCarthy didn’t suddenly decide “he has a greater affiliation for Ireland” as some sort of heinous traitorous act taken at some arbitrary point to spite Scotland. He considered himself to be Irish from the outset as is his human right to do so.

    Speaking as someone who likes to see Scotland do well, McCarthy is a great “loss” to the team, in the sense that you can lose the lottery by forgetting to buy a ticket with numbers that wouldn’t have won. He’s a loss in the same sense as Zico was a loss to the Scottish national team.

    I’ve read many blustering outrages filled with the sanctimony of the moral crusader about McGeady and McCarthy’s “Irish accents” and “where in Glasgow is Ireland?” by knuckledraggers on various sites

    I don’t remember anyone having a problem with Richard Gough’s “Scottish” accent, or Andy Goram’s “accent” or “where in Scotland is Stockholm?”

    Or for that matter, Scots railing against Ray Houghton’s “Irish accent” in the 80s.

    Who says things are getting better?

  9. rossco

    Totally disagree with your comments. And you seem to be very eager to put down the scottish people as a bunch of morons which is quite bizarre as we are very similar people to the Irish. I:m upset James chose Ireland but not for the bigotted or small minded reasons you suggest. Here is a boy with Scottish parents, brought up in Glasgow where he was trained and developed by scottish clubs who decides that he has a greater affiliation to Ireland. Like it or not that is a snub to our country. My family all come from Ireland starting from my grandparents but I was born in bread in Scotland with Scottish parents and growing up around Scottish people….my only choice would have to be Scotland. We are just upset he obviously doesnt care about the country he really comes from. For goodness sake listen to the boys accent..broad glaswegian…what a joke..and yes he is a traitor!


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