Football

The Day Alan McLoughlin Chose Ireland Over England

The Day Alan McLoughlin Chose Ireland Over England

It was early 1990 when a 22-year-old Alan McLoughlin arrived in the door of his Swindon home to find a pile of post. It contained two letters of particular interest: One from the FA and one from the FAI. Both associations wanted him to play in an upcoming B international at Turner's Cross.

McLoughlin, who died on Tuesday aged 54, was Manchester-born but both his parents were Irish. His mother was from Limerick and his father from Galway.

"There, on top of a pile of mail, was a pristine envelope with the three lions crest on it," McLoughlin said in his autobiography, 'A Different Shade of Green'.

"My heart started racing. I had been selected to play for England ‘B'. I excitedly started making telephone calls. I couldn't get through to Dad at his work, so next I called Mum. She was delighted with the news.

"Then I turned back to the pile of mail sitting on the door mat. Four other letters – fast food menu, council tax bill, energy bill – and one plain, slightly dog-eared brown envelope. It was from the Football Association of Ireland. I had been selected to play for Ireland ‘B' too!

"I phoned Mum up again. This time, I heard a little crack of emotion in her voice as she told me how proud of me she was. Although she was trying to hide it, she was a lot more excited. This was the woman who had regularly cycled across Manchester in the rain just to watch me play school matches as a kid. And that was it for me: Ireland."

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McLoughlin played for an Ireland B team featuring many who would become regular international teammates. Dennis Irwin, David Kelly, Niall Quinn and Terry Phelan also played as Ireland won 4-1 in the driving rain.

"The Irish team that I'd joined were up against a formidable England side which included much of the Arsenal defence of the Highbury glory years – Tony Adams, Lee Dixon, Nigel Winterburn – as well as players like Matt Le Tissier and Dalian Atkinson, who was in prolific goal-scoring form," said McLoughlin.

"Looking at the England ‘B' line-up that day I thought back to the two letters arriving through my door, to choosing Ireland over England, and smiled. Players like me, representing Ireland, had an extra point to prove. And prove it we did. We went out there and hammered them.

"It ended up 4-1 and I scored the first goal, the equaliser, when my right foot drive beat Dave Beasant at the near post. It was extra special since Mum and Dad and my uncle John were there to witness my first international game."

After he chose to represent Ireland, McLoughlin's parents were happy. Though, not everybody understood his decision.

"But many of my friends in Swindon and back in Manchester simply could not understand why I had turned down the ostensibly more attractive option of pulling on the lilywhite of England," he said.

"For them, it was a bad career choice. For me, it was a question of national identity and was the right choice both professionally and morally."

McLoughlin faced England again not long after that first encounter. His second full cap was won at Italia 90 when he came off the bench in the 1-1 draw against England in Cagliari. He went on to win another 40 caps before his international career finished in 1999.

See Also: "The Proudest Moment In My Career" - Alan McLoughlin's Windsor Park Moment Was Highlight Of A Wonderful Legacy

ALan McLoughlin Windsor Park

PJ Browne
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