21st Century Sport Makes Rice’s Decision

As one chapter closes a bigger question opens up for Ireland and the sporting World.

Declan Rice’s decision to switch allegiance to England, has angered many, with the usual response on social media and comparisons to Jack Grealish.

People scream it’s a taste of your own medicine for the FAI and Irish soccer, a country who made use of the granny rule, helping Ireland most definitely to two world cups.

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This time, this one hurts Ireland. It hurts harder and cuts deeper then when Jack Grealish turned his back on playing for Ireland. Even the under-21 player of the year award couldn’t keep Grealish in a green jersey.

Rice was different, Rice was the real deal, Rice played for the senior team, even collecting two man-of-the-match awards along the way, but he’s decided, he’s really English.

While the hurt boils under Irish skin, the reality is that this is the new reality of 21st century sport.

CJ Stander and Bundee Aki two Irish rugby players without any blood or family connection, line-out for Ireland under the residency rules.

In reality the residency rules have been abused, Stander and Aki moved to Ireland on contracts offered by the Irish Rugby provinces. Contracts designed to make Munster and Connacht more competitive.

While South Africa and New Zealand didn’t call on the services of both men, Ireland used the rule to their advantage.

Yet unlike Rice where there is out cry from the Irish sporting public, the rugby fraternity by and large have no issues with either player. Why, simply, he improves the Irish team!

Just last weekend the big talking point from the win over Scotland was the emergence of Quinn Roux. A man who qualifies for Ireland, purely through signing for Leinster in 2012

It’s not just Ireland who have abused the rugby nationality rules, in fact Ireland are bottom of the pile of six nations countries who use the residency rule.

Similarly the Irish athletic team now has Alex Wright and Leon Reid, two men whose switch from Britain to Ireland was motivated by respective arguments with the governing body.

However the Irish attitude, from coaches and supporters alike was purely, “it makes us better.”

The Rice decision undoubtedly weakens Mick McCarthy’s hand. Kissing the badge and pledging he was Ireland through and through, makes most people’s stomach turn.

Yet, we are told this is the new World order. That it’s time to respect Rice’s decision he is only 20 and was pushed into a decision at 16.

We were all 16 once and we all knew the difference between right and wrong.

Times have changed for the Irish diaspora in Great Britain and the chances of Ireland fielding a team like the one which faced England at Italia 90, with eight starting players born outside Ireland are non-existent.

While there were complaints at the time, those players, never gave less than it all, in fact none of those players walked out on their country due to an argument with their manager.

Now things have changed. James McClean even admitting that he used his caps for Northern Ireland’s under-age team purely for career advancement.

The moment his transfer from Derry City to Sunderland was confirmed, he changed allegiance to the Republic of Ireland.

No one cared, in fact it was never raised that he even played underage for a different country. He’s one of our own!

The world has changed and playing for your country, or representing the land of your parents has become a happy irrelevance for players for all sports.

The World may have changed, but not all changes are for the good.