This sporting life: anything to declare? Community allegiance, sports and the national question

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Burgess, Thomas Paul
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Palgrave Macmillan UK
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In 2012, a young, mild-mannered, lower-middle-class, Controlled Grammar School-educated County Down man (Roman Catholic by religion for those interested in such matters), inadvertently reminded us of the depth of significance that the two jurisdictions on the island of Ireland still place on stated sporting allegiance and all that this might imply. In a wide-ranging interview with Sportsmail, the then 23-year-old, whose Northern Irish roots made him eligible for both British and Irish representation — had spoken candidly about this dilemma: ‘Maybe it was the way I was brought up, I don’t know, but I have always felt more of a connection with the UK than with Ireland. And so I have to weigh that up against the fact that I’ve always played for Ireland and so it is tough. Whatever I do, I know my decision is going to upset some people but I just hope the vast majority will understand.’ Whether his aspiration was realised is a matter for conjecture. However, for a significant number of opinion formers in the media and on social networking sites, they most assuredly did not understand
National team , Irish representation , Football association , Community allegiance , Association football
Burgess, T. P. (2015) 'This Sporting Life: Anything to Declare? Community Allegiance, Sports and the National Question', in Burgess, T. P. and Mulvenna, G. (eds.) The Contested Identities of Ulster Protestants. London: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 98-112. doi: 10.1057/9781137453945_9
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© 2015, the Author. Published by Palgrave Macmillan. All rights reserved.