Ah, nothing generates debate more than a politician talking about football.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny, said he would like to see an All-Ireland team (that’s Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland) take on England every two years with all of the money raised going to charity.
It’s a fantastic idea if you ask me.
I would never be in favour of having a permanent All-Ireland team.
It’s got nothing to do with politics or anything like that because I am sure there are Northern Ireland supporters who wouldn’t want to join forces with the Republic.
It’s more to do with the fact that having a Northern Ireland team and a Republic of Ireland adds real edge to relations. You don’t have to insult and offend one another to have an edge. There’s nothing quite like good natured banter and as I have said in this column many times over the years, I dream of the day that both teams qualify for the European Championships or a World Cup - the craic would be 90.
Obviously, I wouldn’t like to see a permanent move towards an All-Ireland team but Enda Kenny’s suggestion would not only raise a serious amount of money for charity but it would unite two polarised peoples in a bid to defeat what many of us dream of - beating the English in a game of football.
There’s nothing sectarian or wrong with wanting to beat the English. Their history is steeped in the colonisation of places all over the world, therefore it’s to be expected that the once ruled will always want to get one up on the once rulers. It’s organic and nothing to be ashamed of.
When Northern Ireland beat England, courtesy of a solitary David Healy goal in Windsor Park in 2005, the Norn Iron fans partied into the wee small hours. It was a shock result to say the least.
Many years earlier, (February 1995, to be precise), the Republic of Ireland led the English 1-0 courtesy of another solitary goal from a man called David, only this time his name was David Kelly.
Although our lead over the ‘ole enemy’ was short-lived (the infamous Lansdowne Road Riot ensued soon after) the emotions we experienced were just the same as that experienced by Norn Iron fans in 2005.
So, with that in mind, I find myself, rather surprisingly, agreeing with a politician.
Enda Kenny’s suggestion is not premature. Not by a long shot. The work that has been done by political parties, communities and the people of this island since the Good Friday Agreement was signed has been unprecedented.
The time is right for an exercise of this magnitude and just because two teams would unite to play England doesn’t mean any of the edge would be lost.
Just think, if Roy Carroll was in nets and he let in a howler, the Republic of Ireland fans could taunt their counterparts from the North and vice versa should a Republic of Ireland player make a mistake or do something silly.
It’s time both sets of fans lived in the real world and realised that qualifying for European Championships and World Cups will always be few and far between, so why not try and breathe much needed life into the international.
It’s about time we stopped taking ourselves so fecking seriously and had a wee bit of fun for a change.
I wonder what Roy Keane thinks...