Is Martin O’Neill about to ask Tommy McNamara to choose sides?

"I'm hoping to get back there soon," says Tommy McNamara.

There is Ireland. It's preceded by the word back because he has already been - many times. New York-born, Roscommon and Sligo-bred, McNamara is a child of the mid-Atlantic, neither one nationality nor the other. So, instead, he's both.

But the next trip back there might have a whole lot to do with what he's doing here. Here is the Bronx, a place that in its not-too-distant past teemed with the children of the mid-Atlantic, a melting pot of Irish-Americanism that bubbled from the bottom of the Grand Concourse to the top.

With time and many varying tides, the arrivals and their proceeding generations have largely migrated up and out of the borough. Pearl River, about 20 miles north west of the Bronx, across the Hudson River, is where McNamara's dual identities were cultivated by parents and especially grandparents, who had emigrated from west of the Shannon.

He's American and he's Irish then. He's also a professional footballer who happens to be one of the most form players on this side of the Atlantic. There's a slow but steadily rumbling feeling that at 25, his sport might just force him into a decision that his heritage did not - when it comes down to it, which nationality comes first?

Martin O'Neill will name the first international squad of his next Irish era in the coming days. It would count as a significant surprise to many if the entry Thomas Liam McNamara (New York City FC) appeared on that list. Many but not all.

For a start, the Football Association of Ireland have already been in touch, to verify whether he had a passport. That was last year when he had just joined the newest franchise in the MLS and was easing his way back from ACL surgery. Over 12 months on, the attacking midfielder's not so much eased as roared back to become one of the most eye-catching talents in a league that's all about catching them.

That's why some suggest the FAI may be ready to hit redial.

"Anything's possible. I've always said I qualify for the US national team and the Irish national team," McNamara told the Irish Examiner. "I have citizenship for Ireland from my grandparents. I'm open to playing for both teams. It would be an honour to represent either team.

"I grew up as an Irish-American. It's always been a part of my heritage and it's something I'm proud of. Since I was a young kid, my father raised me watching all games, the Irish national team and the US team. I obviously don't remember a lot when I was younger but now that I'm older, I enjoy watching the Ireland games and supporting them."

Sometimes, in person. McNamara's social media accounts feature evidence of as much, a picture of him in the stands surrounded by family, decked out in an Ireland shirt for an international friendly at Yankee Stadium in 2013.

It is in that same ill-fitting arena that McNamara now stakes his own international claim. There's something apt about that. If Yankee Stadium doesn't quite strike you as a place for football, McNamara doesn't immediately jump out at you as a footballer either. He's on the short side, a little  on the stocky side too with a hairstyle that makes you a cult hero with your own fans and a focal point for jeers in opposition territory.

And yet nestled off to the left of Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard, tucked in behind David Villa, it is this unembellished Irish-American with the Alice band who has continually stood out for Patrick Vieira's table-toppers this term.

"They're great players obviously and I like to try and play as well," says McNamara, who has nine assists and four goals this season. "So it makes it easier on myself to play with those guys because they are at the top of [the game], they've done such big things in their careers."

Two-footed but at his most effective drifting in from the left on to his stronger right, McNamara has made long-distance stunners his trademark. It's all down to being "duck footed" he says, clarifying "pointed feet".

Some of those strikes have gone viral and might just have caught trains-Atlantic attention. O'Neill has shown a willingness to call upon unheralded talents particularly in the wide and attacking midfield areas - Callum O'Dowda the most recent and perhaps most pertinent example. The shape and approach which came to the fore in the defeat of Italy in the Euros this past summer would equally offer McNamara reason to be optimistic, matching up very well with his own skill and mindsets.

"Yeah I agree," he said. "It was enjoyable to watch them and support them at the Euros. From the outside looking in, I enjoyed their style of play, the way they set up and the way they go about their football. You know it suits me strengths for sure."

His manager and that trio of illustrious New York City teammates - all of whom have known good and great days with their own countries - see McNamara's strengths as ideally suited to the modern international game - whether it's O'Neill or USA manager Jurgen Klinsmann who comes a calling.

"For me what I really love about him is the impact he has on the team when he’s on the field," said Vieira recently. "He’s a really good player. He’s better, much better than people are seeing and what people are talking about."

McNamara only turned professional in 2014, having taken his merry time in the collegiate circuit, completing an Ivy League degree in Business and Economics. Yet Lampard insists he's more than ready to excel for country like he has for club

"Why not?" the England veteran told us. "If he's playing the way he's playing for us. He's got great ability on the ball. He certainly wouldn't be out of place in terms of technically and what he can do on the ball. It's great for him that that's being mentioned now."

One of the biggest barriers may be one of the most obvious - judging the true talents of a player who plies his trade in the MLS. McNamara and NYCFC welcome LA Galaxy to the Bronx this weekend. While it admittedly had much to do with his stature in the set-up, Robbie Keane managed to retain his spot on the squad while Stateside while Kevin Doyle earned an Ireland return after being rejuvenated with Colorado.

"Yeah that's positive," agrees McNamara. "It's good having players like them playing here and still in the international side. They've always done well when they have been over there, especially Robbie. My understanding is that [the FAI] are monitoring MLS because players like that are over here."

Over here...over there. One of these days McNamara might just have to make up his mind.


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