Expansionist Blog: Heritage players are crucial to Ireland

Drew Darbyshire

Liam Finn insists heritage players are important to Ireland, but understands the reasonings of why they don’t play every year. 

The 35-year-old announced his retirement from the international game following the conclusion of Ireland’s European Championship campaign last weekend.

Finn, who was born in England but has Irish family heritage, has earned 28 caps for the Wolfhounds and is regarded as a legend in those shores.

Earlier in the year, reports suggested that the old RLI board planned to scrap using heritage players but since Stuart Littler’s appointment as head coach, he and the new RLI board have kept heritage players in the squad.

“The was a change of leadership in the Ireland board and luckily enough, a few new people have gained control of Rugby League Ireland,” Finn explained.

“I’ve come out and backed the new people in charge. They have fresh new ideas within Rugby League Ireland and to be honest, the old board were a shambles.

“It’s now down to this new board to deliver what they say they are going to deliver and hopefully they can take rugby league in the country to the next level and improve the game.”

Finn, who will join League 1 side Newcastle Thunder in 2019, revealed that he sympathises with the heritage players who do not represent Ireland every year due to a number of reasons.

“Heritage players are very important to Ireland but at the same time, there needs to be a balance between expecting professionals to play every single year and not playing at all,” he added.

“People have got to understand that the professionals don’t get any time off from their clubs and some clubs don’t want them to play for Ireland, so that puts pressure on them at club level as well.

“Players don’t get any financial benefit of playing for Ireland, so there are two sides to the coin in saying we need these players to come out and play every year, but realistically, it’s just not feasible.

“The lower nations basically ask professionals to basically go amateur for a bit, so we need to find a way to try and facilitate the growth of the game and get professional players the exposure it needs at international level.”