Belfast Telegraph

Gordon Strachan's 'pantomime' sums up Celtic Park situation

By Declan Bogue

James McCarthy and Aidan McGeady. Are you ready for the hell that awaits you in Celtic Park? Or are you, as we imagine, largely indifferent?

There will be people very, very angry with you indeed. You chose to play for the Republic of Ireland rather than Scotland, the country of your birth and your nurturing.

It's a curious one, but had McCarthy, and McGeady especially, been born in the country of their ancestors, there is a chance that they might not have played the game of association football at all.

McGeady's heritage is in Gaoth Dobhair, a Donegal Ghaeltacht familiar to many as a favoured holiday destination. Had he have been raised there, it's more likely he'd have ended playing Gaelic football alongside the likes of Kevin Cassidy, the McGee brothers and Odhran MacNiallais.

He might even have an All-Ireland medal from 2012.

Anyway, back to the point. All this week and last, a number of talking heads have been lining up to say that the duo deserve a hot reception. There are others who will say that the whole thing demeans us all in some high-minded way.

If there is one word that sums up the non-issue, it is Gordon Strachan's use of the word 'pantomime.'

It's just sport. Themmuns against us. War minus the shooting. Our crowd playing their crowd. Booing is merely another expression of rivalry that can be conducted fairly effectively when crowds numbering thousands of like-minded individuals gather.

Drawing-room Wildean barbs, you suspect, could be lost in the moment at Parkhead on Friday night. It's not racism or sectarianism - it's just sport. Otherwise, what's the point of international football in the first place?

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