Mick McCarthy emphasised that he had no ulterior motive following the selection of Luca Connell for the upcoming Republic of Ireland internationals. Connell has already lined out for Ireland at U-17 and U-19. This is a hot topic given England’s apparent growing interest in the player and in light of the Jack Grealish-Declan Rice debacles.
International eligibility is set out on page 70 of the FIFA statutes August 2018 edition. I’m led to believe Connell qualifies for the Republic under (c). Eligibility rules are as follows:
(a) He was born on the territory of the relevant association;
(b) His biological mother or biological father was born on the territory of the relevant association;
(c) His grandmother or grandfather was born on the territory of the relevant association;
(d) He has lived continuously on the territory of the relevant association for at least two years.
In an increasingly globalised world I would bet that eligibility controversies will increase in the years ahead. Given global migration patterns there will likely be greater numbers of players with at least dual citizenship.
The design of tournaments may also incentivise 'strategic capping'. There are clear balance issues in several international tournaments. Take the European Championships for example. Low risk competitive matches against Gibraltar, Faroe Islands, Andorra, Malta, San Marino etc. offer nations a great opportunity to strategically cap young players whose allegiances are unclear. These fixtures provide bigger nations a low risk potentially high reward environment to cap a young player.
If strategic capping does increase my bet is that it is more likely to occur for players who were not born/raised in the country they are called up to represent. There is potential for a weaker identification in such cases and this is where it may likely be seen most.
Perhaps the rules will change going forward – maybe age limits will be required to be met for a player to be called up for a senior competitive match.