Kevin Kilbane: playing for Ireland should never be a ‘fallback’ plan

Former Ireland midfielder would rather see Pádraig Amond play than Patrick Bamford

Having said from early on that Ireland should not be chasing Declan Rice once the player seemed less than completely committed to the cause, Kevin Kilbane says he would rather see Mick McCarthy cap someone like Pádraig Amond than have to chase a Patrick Bamford on the basis that he is scoring goals again in the Championship.

“He (Bamford) is available and Mick is quite right when he says he has a duty to pick the best 23, to put out the best team that is available,” said the former Everton and Ireland star on Friday, at an event to promote next week’s coverage on Virgin Media of the Champions League.

“Patrick Bamford does qualify for us but his first choice was always England. He’s got to a stage where he is not going to play for England, he’s not deemed to be good enough. But who is to say that if, at 28 or 29, he is scoring goals at the top level, that that is not going to become available to him and personally I’d want to back myself to play for the country that I want to play for.

“I don’t know Pádraig Amond but I’ve spoken to him on the phone, I’ve got a small kind of relationship with him and I know what it means to him to play for us. I can’t get beyond the feeling of overriding joy that I had when I had a fax come through to tell me I’d got my first call-up for the Under-21s. That was the ultimate joy, the thing that you can never ever replace.


“I’m not saying that Patrick Bamford won’t have that joy and if he goes on and scores 20, 25 goals in an Ireland shirt then of course, I’ll be 100 per cent supportive of him, that’s never going to be an issue but I’d be slightly leaning towards preferring to see PádraigAmond play.”

Having declared for Ireland despite being born in England, Kilbane obviously has no issues with players doing the same now but he declined a call up from England at underage level and says he feels there should be some clear sign of commitment from others.

“There is a part of me, a massive part of me, that still thinks, all things being equal, I would prefer a player who has seen us (as the ambition) at 13, 14, 15. I’m a romantic about that but there is still a part of me that thinks: they are Irish, they want to play for us; they are desperate to play for us. That desperation to play for us is still important for me when compared to someone who sees us as a second choice.

“I understand what is going on, of course. That when players get to 21 or 24, or whatever, and they are not progressing towards international football but then they have the chance to play international football and it’s within the rules, they can actually go and play it. . . but there is a huge part of me that is not fundamentally on board with that.

"Does it sit uneasily with me? Yes it does. Massively. Part of it is the whole thing of 'declaring' for us. Look at Will Keane now. He gets to the stage where he is not going to progress with England and so 'that's my fallback plan'. But I don't want Ireland to be a fallback plan. I don't want to have us as 'the option' when you can't go and play for 'your country,' and ultimately that's the way they see it; that you can't play for your country and we are the second option."

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times