Football

The Former Windsor Park Ballboy Who Played 22 Times For The Republic Of Ireland

The Former Windsor Park Ballboy Who Played 22 Times For The Republic Of Ireland

Alan Kernaghan spent the night of November 17th 1993 being called a 'fucking Lundy'. Colonel Robert Lundy was the governor of Derry who urged surrender during the siege of the city in 1688. Ulster unionists do not remember him fondly. In those circles, his name is a synonym for 'Quisling'.

Today, he was appointed manager of Glentoran, one of Belfast's traditional 'Big Two'.

We know that the Republic of Ireland was very definitely not Kernaghan's first love. We know this because he admitted as much to the Belfast Telegraph.

Born in Leeds, his family left for Bangor in Co. Down when he was a kid. He spent his childhood watching the successful Northern Ireland sides of the 1980s and even served as a ballboy a Windsor Park.

He later represented Northern Ireland at youth level. He told the Irish Independent in September 1992 that one of his Northern Ireland schoolboy caps came against the Republic of Ireland.

And, we got beat 2-0 in Newry!

The IFA clung to a purist approach concerning the selection of players born outside the country. Kernaghan was ruled ineligible. That he had lived in Down since the age of six counted for nowt. He was heartbroken.

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I’d played for Northern Ireland schoolboys and had always hoped to take the next step go on and play for the senior team but then the IFA found that I wasn’t eligible. It was a shock.

I spoke to the IFA to try to find some way forward but it was just a ‘no’.

The FAI, as we know, adopted a more inclusive approach.

In April 1992, the Irish Press broke the news that Kernaghan had been declared eligible for the Irish squad. Kernaghan expressed his delight to Charlie Stuart, who noted Kernaghan's 'broad Ulster accent' in his copy.

It's fantastic news and something I was hoping would happen for a long time. Now, it's up to myself to show that I am good enough to get into Jack Charlton's squad next season.

While he disclosed that there was 'some lingering tension on the periphery' and that some 'Republic of Ireland fans and journalists' didn't like his selection, Kernaghan insists he was always happy to pull on the Republic of Ireland shirt. He did so 22 times between 1992 and 1996, winning selection for the USA 94 World Cup squad.

Read more: Charlie Haughey's 'Teashop' And 5 Other Times Sport And Irish Politics Mixed

 

Conor Neville
Article written by
Perennial finalist in stand-up comedy competitions and former Contract Lawyer/ Coal Salesman with Corless, Corless and Sweeney

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