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10 of the best players who could have played for Ireland

Is Jack Grealish set to follow all these top players and opt out of playing for Ireland?
May 17th 2015, 7:00 AM 22,454 32

1. Steve Bruce

Soccer Source: EMPICS Sport

BRUCE QUALIFIED TO play for Ireland through his mother, and according to the former Man United player’s autobiography, he was approached by Jack Charlton to represent the side, but the rules at the time prevented him from playing, owing to an earlier appearance for England at youth level.

2. Wayne Rooney

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Everton v Manchester United - Goodison Park Source: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Rooney qualified to play for Ireland through his grandmother, and was also asked by then-Scotland manager Berti Vogts to represent his side, before becoming the youngest player ever to feature for the England senior team aged just 17.

3. Martin Keown

Soccer - FA Barclaycard Premiership - Bolton Wanderers v Arsenal Source: EMPICS Sport

Keown has said it was a genuinely tough decision to choose between Ireland and England, while his son has since opted to declare for the Irish side.

4. Aaron Lennon

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Everton v Sunderland - Goodison Park Source: Barrington Coombs

Lennon was eligible to play for Ireland through his mother, but some glittering early-career performances earned him a call-up to England’s 2006 World Cup squad while still a teenager.

5. Gary Cahill

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Leicester City v Chelsea - King Power Stadium Source: Mike Egerton

Linked with the Irish set-up as recently as 2009, Chelsea centre-back Cahill is now a regular in the England team.

6. Tim Cahill

Britain Soccer FA Cup Source: AP/Press Association Images

One of the few players on this list who was genuinely enthusiastic about the idea of playing for Ireland, Mick McCarthy actually wanted to get him on board ahead of the 2002 World Cup, yet the fact that he had played for Western Samoa at underage level denied him that chance at the time.

7. Darren Fletcher

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Manchester United v Manchester City - Old Trafford Source: EMPICS Sport

Fletcher’s mother is from Mayo and he even showed his affinity for the county by turning up at the All-Ireland final between themselves and Dublin in 2013.

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8. Paul Gascoigne

174265 Paul Gascoigne Source: EMPICS Sport

The former Tottenham and Lazio star was eligible to play for Ireland through his grandparents, but ended up making a big impact at Italia 90 for England instead.

9. Jimmy Greaves

Soccer - Football League Division One - West Ham United v Stoke City Source: S&G and Barratts/EMPICS Sport

The Tottenham legend revealed on an episode of TV show Saint and Greavsie that he could have played for Ireland, but dismissed the idea owing to the simple fact that he was born in England.

10. Paul Scholes

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - West Bromwich Albion v Manchester United - The Hawthorns Source: EMPICS Sport

Writing in a recent Independent column, Scholes recalled how he was eligible for Ireland, before expressing hope that Jack Grealish would make the same decision as him.

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Paul Fennessy

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