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8 Players That Turned Down The Chance To Play For Ireland

8 Players That Turned Down The Chance To Play For Ireland
Gary Connaughton
By Gary Connaughton
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Representing Ireland on the international is a huge honour. There are countless people around the country that would only love to get the opportunity to do so.

Of course, there are some who rejected that chance.

In this article, we are not going to feature players who actually did pull on the green jersey at some point, most notably a couple who are prominent members of the current England squad.

Instead, it will be footballers who completely turned down the opportunity to represent Ireland.

Here are eight notable players who did just that.

READ HERE: Ireland Fans Call For FAI To Approach Recently Sacked English Manager

Players That Turned Down Ireland

Patrick Bamford

This one looked to be in the offing for quite some time, although Bamford would never commit to pulling on the green jersey.


He was heavily pursued by both Martin O'Neill and Mick McCarthy, remaining noncommittal on both occasions.

A good run after returning to the Premier League with Leeds United all but ended any hopes of him playing for Ireland, with Bamford making his England debut in a World Cup qualifier against Andorra in September of 2021. It remains his only England cap, and considering his form and injury issues over the last couple of years, it looks likely that will be the case for quite some time.

Curtis Davies

Curtis Davies' links to Ireland are tenuous at best, but he did still qualify to play for the country.


His grandmother was born in Ireland while her father was stationed over here as part of the British army, living here for a short time before the family moved back across the Irish Sea. This meant Davies qualified for an Irish passport, although it's fair to say he was never really interested despite some contact from the FAI.

Speaking back in 2014, he said that his strongest link to Ireland was that once drank a pint of Guinness. He also said he could see himself not getting on with then management pairing Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane, the latter of whom had questioned Davies' England credentials while on punditry duties with ITV:

I had a Guinness once. My nan was born in Ireland, but she's not Irish, she's English. Her father was in the army and he was in Ireland when she was born. There's no heritage, but I do qualify.

However, I'm not sure after Roy Keane's comments – am I good enough for Ireland? It didn't annoy me, but he's saying I'm not international quality.

Does that mean he thinks I'm not good enough for Ireland? If he doesn't believe I'm good enough for England, then say England. Maybe it was a ploy to steer me away from England.

It's well documented that O'Neill and I had problems at Villa. Is that really going to work? Do I really want to sell myself down the Irish route and then I've got an assistant manager who doesn't rate me and a manager who maybe there is a bit of ill-feeling with.

Unsurprisingly, he would never feature for Ireland. He would actually go on to make his debut for Sierra Leone earlier this year at the age of 38.


Mark Noble

Noble was another player that was long linked with Ireland, especially as he never really seemed in with a chance of an England call-up despite consistently performing in the Premier League for West Ham.


He was offered the chance to switch international allegiances, but did not feel right about potentially taking that opportunity from a young Irish player when he had no affiliation to the country. He told The Times a number of years ago:

I have had a chance of playing for Ireland - I've been approached and asked. My nan and grandad are full Irish.

But there are Irish boys who would love to play for Ireland, like me with England. I wouldn't put myself into something I wasn't fully committed to. I wouldn't want to take that chance off a full Irish player.

I’m patriotic and I’d love to play for England. I played England U-15 to U-21. A lot of people are talking about me and England. If it happens, it happens.

You'd have to admire his reasoning. The midfielder would never manage an England appearance over the course of his career.


Nathan Redmond

Despite being capped for England in 2017, Nathan Redmond remains eligible to play for Ireland as his only cap came in a friendly match.

Mick McCarthy made an effort to get him on board during his time in charge, speaking to the player's agent. However, he could not even get Redmond in a room to talk about the possibility of playing for Ireland.

The winger qualifies through his grandparents, but had also been linked with a switch to Jamaica. Despite still being only 29-years old, there seems little prospect of seeing him come into the Irish fold at this stage.


Wayne Rooney

The one that got away? Not really, as Wayne Rooney never had any intention of playing for Ireland.


He has a strong Irish heritage, but the current Birmingham City boss said that he didn't consider playing for anyone apart from England. Both the FAI and Lee Carsley broached the subject on an international switch when he was a 16-year old at Everton, but there was little traction.

Speaking in 2015 ahead of a friendly between England and Ireland, Rooney confirmed pulling on the green jersey was a non-starter for him:

Lee Carsley asked me (on behalf of Republic boss Mick McCarthy) about it and it never crossed my mind.

I have Irish grandparents, so if they wanted to play for Ireland I'm sure they could have, but it was never something I thought about.

I was born in England, I'm English.

He would have been a handy man to have up front alongside Robbie Keane.


Jamie O'Hara

Now more known for his questionable takes on Talksport, Jamie O'Hara was once a highly rated young midfielder at Spurs and Portsmouth.

He was capped by England up to U21 level, although Ireland did make a play to bring him on board.

He was contacted by Liam Brady about the possibility of switching his international allegiances, but turned him down as he felt he still had a chance of playing for England.

Speaking back in 2019, O'Hara said it was one of his biggest regrets.

I was playing with England U21s. I was at Portsmouth and I was having a really good season and Liam Brady approached me.

At the time, I really fancied myself to play for England. I was up and coming, I was only 21, I was involved with the England team, so I turned them down.

It's probably one of the ones I regret actually because I have a big Irish family and it was a big opportunity to play for the national side.

O'Hara's career would soon peter out at a remarkable pace, meaning he never got the chance to play international football.


Steve Bruce

Steve Bruce is an outlier on this list in that he actually wanted to play for Ireland, but he was forced to turn down a call-up under Jack Charlton nonetheless.

The centre back famously never won an England cap despite being captain of Manchester United, with an opportunity to represent Ireland presenting itself towards the tail end of his career.

Charlton contacted Bruce in 1993 after hearing that his mother had been born in Ireland, asking if he would be interested in throwing his lot in with The Boys in Green.

The defender was interested, but Alex Ferguson had other ideas. He did not want Bruce to declare for Ireland as this would have made him a 'foreign player' under UEFA rules, with teams limited to having a certain number of such players in their squad for continental competitions at the time.

Speaking on Goals on Sunday back in 2016, Bruce detailed how this ended any international hopes:

Big Jack Charlton rang me, when USA 94 [was approaching]... Typical Jack he rang me and said 'I've just been on a train and the driver tells me your mother is from Ireland.'

I said 'Yes, Jack.' He said 'Why didn't you tell me before? Look, I'd love to welcome you, we've got the World Cup in USA...

Back in the day, if you were foreign or 'Irish' and that assimilated rule, you could have been a foreigner player for Man U. Sir Alex put the boot into that one.

He said 'You're not going to be foreign.' That was really the end of it.

His son Alex would go on to play for Ireland in later years, winning two caps in friendly games before then declaring for Northern Ireland. Bruce himself has also been linked with the Ireland managerial job in recent weeks.


Dave Kitson 

Dave Kitson was a bit of hot property there for a while in the mid 00s. The striker was performing very well for Reading, even being the top goalscorer in the Premier League at one point during his debut season in the top flight.

He was also strongly linked with an Ireland call-up around this time, with then manager Steve Staunton naming Kitson as one of the players he would like to bring on board.

However, the player himself was not all that interested. He turned down the FAI's original advances, claiming he was then contacted by a journalist pretending to be the Ireland manager.

Speaking in The Sun in 2019, he recalled how the whole thing played out.

I took a call from the Irish FA who invited me to play for the Republic of Ireland. I politely declined.

I don’t consider myself Irish in any sense despite the fact I’ve travelled all over Ireland and love the country very much. That made the Irish FA very unhappy.

The following day I took a call from Ireland manager Steve Staunton as I was running out the door to training.

He was very persistent and was imploring me to tell him that I’d at least think about it.

I had no intention of playing for Ireland but to get Steve off the phone I said I’d think about it.

As you’ve probably guessed, it turned out not to be Steve Staunton but an Irish journalist who ran a story calling me a mercenary for having said I wouldn’t play for Ireland and then saying I’d think about it.

It was an absolute stitch-up.

Kitson would go on to receive an England call-up. However, he celebrated doing so by going on the lash and getting himself arrested.  The call-up was rescinded as a result.

There is no word as to whether the Staunton impersonator got in touch thereafter.

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