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Daniel Kearns explains choosing Republic over Northern Ireland ‘for footballing reasons’ during landmark 2010 eligibility case


Daniel Kearns celebrates scoring for Cliftonville

Daniel Kearns celebrates scoring for Cliftonville


Daniel Kearns with the Republic of Ireland U19s

Daniel Kearns with the Republic of Ireland U19s

©INPHO/Cathal Noonan


Daniel Kearns celebrates scoring for Cliftonville

An aspiring young footballer with dreams of making it in the game stood up in court, nodded and sat down again, oblivious to the impact his case would have on football on the island of Ireland.

Cliftonville forward Daniel Kearns was the teenage player and his court appearance took place in Lausanne, Switzerland back in July 2010.

Just 18 at the time, Kearns wanted to pursue an international career with the Republic of Ireland rather than Northern Ireland, having played for the U17s and U19s north of the border.

The case ended up at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, and on July 30, 2010 the Swiss authority decided that Kearns was indeed able to make the switch as he possessed an Irish passport.

Under the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, anyone from Northern Ireland could apply for an Irish passport, even those who did not hold biological ties to antecedents born in the Republic of Ireland.

The FAI were delighted with the landmark verdict, the IFA dismayed, and the consequences of the ruling affects both teams to this day.

However, between the fighting associations was a lad who just wanted to play good football and made his decision from a career point of view, not a political perspective.

“I was still in the youth team at West Ham,” recalls Kearns, now 30. “I got a phone call one day from Sean McCaffrey, now sadly passed away. He was the under-age manager for the Republic.

“I listened to what he had to say about the set-up and the whole team. We (NI) had obviously come up against them as U17s and U19s, so I knew they were top players.

“He just asked if I fancied coming down to play for him. I had a quick chat with my mum and dad and the family, and I just thought, ‘Do you know what? I’m going to give this a go’, and that was it really.

“It was 100% a football decision based on what Sean had to say. His side always played good football and he was a top man, a great coach who went on to manage Dundalk. After that phone call, I made the decision and then it blew up. It was crazy. I actually went to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, my dad and I went with the FAI party.

“I didn’t have to sign anything or speak, I just stood up, nodded my head a few times and sat back down.

“I was only 18 at the time, just trying to feel my way into full-time football, still involved in the youth team. It was a great experience and then there were a mad couple of days.

“At the time I didn’t think too much about it. I was still trying to find my feet so I wasn’t concerned about how it would look in the future.”

The former Peterborough United player insists he personally took no flak over his switch, moved on and is now happy at Solitude.

“I didn’t get any stick about my decision at all. It didn’t affect me at all. At that stage and where I was, it was a decision made from a football perspective,” he says. “It was me who wanted to try and progress at youth team level and maybe international level with the U19s. I went on to play for the Republic U21s, and I loved it.

“Now I’m really enjoying life at Cliftonville. We’re going well this season, right up there challenging throughout the season, so it has been very enjoyable.”

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