Aiden McGeady’s decision to represent Ireland, over Scotland, as a 14-year-old kid didn’t make the news, but when the time came for McGeady to make the step up to the full international set-up, the former Celt became public enemy number one.
At grounds up and down the country McGeady was abused from the stands, and the argument has always had two sides. Was McGeady boo-ed because he was a top talent who was viewed as declining the opportunity to choose to play for Scotland? Or was it that McGeady was a Celtic player choosing to play for Ireland over Scotland, and the abuse he received mired in sectarianism and anti-Irish racism.
I’m sure everyone will still have their own thoughts on either side of that argument. However, McGeady, interviewed by Kenny McIntyre for BBC Sport Scotland, has touched on that very subject, prompted of course by McIntyre.
And while the host seems willing to encourage McGeady to enter into a discussion, and McGeady happy to answer the questions, when the course of the interview sees McGeady ask for McIntyre’s view on the matter, the host appears somewhat uncomfortable and reticent to delve deeper when McGeady asks some questions of his own?
McIntyre: Your decision to represent the Republic of Ireland over Scotland – Again that was a difficult decision, did you receive a lot of flack for that?’
Aiden: Did I receive a lot of flack for that? Come on man.
McIntyre: How tough. Give us an idea how tough it was?
Aiden: What, going to every away ground and getting boo-ed every time you touched the ball? Did that not happen? It did, didn’t it?
McIntyre: How did it affect you?
Aiden: It didn’t affect me. Because I think there are plenty of players who have played for other teams, plenty of Scottish players that have played for other teams. Did Scott Arfield not play for Canada? Brian McLean, he chose Northern Ireland. Did they get the same abuse as me? Why did I get that abuse?
McIntyre: Did you have any idea what was about to hit you when you made that decision?
Aiden: No I made the decision when I was 14, it’s not like I made the decision when I was 18. Scotland had those rules where you couldn’t play for your school team. If you didn’t play for your school team you couldn’t play for the (Scottish)schoolboys. Which was fine, but Ireland didn’t have that, and Packie Bonner knew my dad and my Grandparents. He asked if wanted to play for Ireland Under 14’s, 15’s and I was like ‘Well yeah’ so then I just played with Ireland and then that was it. I just knew all the boys, I liked the set-up, and then when I got into the first team, it was like ‘Oh my God how’s this guy not playing for Scotland?’ That’s why. It’s not like I’ve just chosen Ireland now so that was why.
McIntyre: Does it still hurt? The abuse you got the way you were treated?
Aiden: No it’s small-minded individuals, isn’t it? That’s all it is. Like I said the other players I mentioned, why didn’t they get the same abuse that I got? Any idea?
Aiden: Because I played for Celtic, because I played for Ireland? Hearts Hibs, Motherwell, Falkirk, everywhere. Boo-ed everywhere I went, wanting me to fail, didn’t happen to anybody else, did it? James McCarthy got the same didn’t he as well? He got the same, plenty of other players have switched allegiance to countries, loads of them, but they’ve not all go that, but no in a way it’s a compliment, because if they didn’t think you were a good player they wouldn’t be bothering.’
McIntyre: ‘What was life like off the park with that background then, as an Old Firm (sic) with that in the background?’
Aiden: ‘Yeah just the same really, Used to just get it everywhere I went really – Traitor, turncoat, Judas – not from everybody but from proper Scotland fans, which there aren’t many of in Glasgow, it’s mainly Ireland or England isn’t it?
🗣️ ‘The other players that I mentioned, why did they not get the same abuse that I got?’ 🤔
📻 @kennymacsport catches up with Aiden McGeady. Listen to the full interview in the Scottish Football Podcast ⤵️
— BBC Sport Scotland (@BBCSportScot) May 22, 2022
Of course, McIntyre isn’t obliged to offer an opinion, after all the fall-back will be McIntyre is the interviewer and McGeady the interviewee, and let’s be honest, the issue of Anti – Irish racism still appears a subject not given the same level of importance as other forms of racism, homophobia or misogyny, yet interviewers are often willing, even happy, to give their opinions on such discrimination when interviewing.
Yet even despite taking McGeady down that path, and no doubt knowing full well the answers he was likely to receive, there wasn’t even a willingness on the part of the interviewer to open up the debate and delve deeper into a problem Scottish society pretends it doesn’t have.
McIntyre it appears was quite deliberate in taking Aiden McGeady down that path, and Aiden happy enough to talk about it, but when the subject required a response, McIntyre missed the opportunity to open it up and instead shifted the direction to an ‘old firm’ issue.
As McGeady points out, other players chose to represent other countries and none received the levels of abuse he did – with perhaps the exception of James McCarthy who also chose the same route as McGeady. Now is that because players like Brian McLean and Scott Arfield weren’t viewed as being as talented as McGeady and McCarthy, or was it their down to their background and choosing that particular country to represent?
The chance to have that very debate was there, McGeady may even have been willing to go deeper still, but we’ll never know. Because, despite being willing to touch on the subject, Kenny McIntyre pulled back. I wonder how many other broadcasters, outside of Scotland, would have missed such an opportunity.
Aiden McGeady is a thoughtful and articulate guy that was a fantastic footballer.
By simply recalling his experiences of being a Celtic player choosing to represent Ireland, it highlights the anti Irish and anti Catholic sentiment ingrained in Scotland.
— The Cynic (@90MinuteCynic) May 22, 2022
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