"It infuriates me" - Gary Breen on today's very fluid international eligibility rules

Former Ireland defender discusses his pride at wearing the green shirt at Off The Ball's Vicar Street Roadshow

Gary Breen, Ireland

Gary Breen celebrates his goal in 2002 ©INPHO/Tom Honan

Former Ireland defender Gary Breen says the eligibility rules that allow a certain level of fluidity in terms of national team allegiances can be infuriating. 

The ex-Premier League centre back was speaking at Off The Ball's Vicar Street Roadshow on stage alongside Keith Andrews and Kevin Kilbane.  

London born Breen spoke about his pride at playing for Ireland and also gave his take on the eligibility rules and in his view once a player declares for a national team, there shouldn't be any room for manoeuvre afterwards. 

"I'm actually quite strong on it. I don't believe it should be a career choice. You are either Irish or you're not. You shouldn't have the opportunity to choose then... 'I'd like to play in a major championship, maybe I can do it for Scotland, Wales, whatever'... If you don't have that affiliation to that country, you shouldn't play for them and I think that has to be decided at FIFA level because it infuriates me because for me it meant everything," said the former Coventry defender.

"I remember growing up as a kid and my Dad and my uncle would take me to games and I would idolise that '88, '90 team, Paul McGrath especially. That was all I ever dreamt about. As young players, many players talked about playing in FA Cup finals as a pinnacle of a career but mine was always to play for Ireland and just fortunate and blessed that I got the opportunity." 

Breen also talked about the overwhelming emotion that would take hold when representing one's country.

"It just galvanises you and takes you to a different level and I don't understand how someone could pull on a shirt that they had no feelings for because quite often early on in my career at under-21 levels, I'd be singing the national anthem but I had to make a decision - I know a lot of supporter say 'why didn't you sing at major championships' - because I couldn't. It was too emotional. For under-21 games, I'd be welling up crying nearly and I don't know why because I'm not an emotional guy and suddenly it would take me five or 10 minutes to regain my composure," he said, adding that seeing the sea of green ahead of the Cameroon game at the 2002 World Cup brought on overwhelming emotions.

He also had strong connections to Gaelic football through his family including All Ireland winning medals, and also discussed why an opportunity to go to Inter Milan after the 2002 World Cup didn't go ahead.