Mexican journalist Jonny Rico reports on Jara’s reaction to his possible selection. (Spanish with subtitles)
Rumors are circulating in Mexico that the head coach of the Irish Republic Martin O’Neill has unearthed a top level talent in Mexico’s Liga MX.
His original plan to head to watch Pachuca three weeks ago was delayed by the referee’s strike but the target is still in range for the ex-Leicester midfielder. The story leaked out when we covered Pachuca’s 3-2 win over Tijuana Xolos three weeks ago, and we have now received confirmation from a second source.
His target is Los Tuzos’ attacking wing back Franco Jara. Jara provided a goal and an assist that night in Tijuana but nobody suspected the news he was carrying.
Although his name has been hispanified, Jara’s great great grandfather emigrated from Ireland 93 years ago when he was known as Frank O’Hara and was a publican at the Irish Whip pub in Galway. Immigration officials at Casa Bonita, Argentina’s welcoming equivalent of Ellis Island, and finally after shouting “Frank O’Hara” several times, they wrote it down as Franco Jara.
Upon arriving in Córdoba Province in 1924 from the bustling city of Ballydehob, Jara Senior found work as an urn polisher at the local Buddhist temple. He had two children by his Patagonian wife, a son called Ned Jara and his sister Scarletto who bore the Spanish version of the family name.
The family lost track of their Irish heritage through the ages.
Jara himself knew little about it and doesn’t celebrate St Patricks Day by droning on about where his great great grandmother came from like most people.
But things were about to change.
When Tuzos Uruguayan head coach Diego Alonso first took the call, he thought he was talking to Michael O’Neill. head coach of Northern Ireland. He is famous in Uruguay from his time at Portland Timbers, a club that only signs players from Argentina, Colombia, Uruguay and Salt Lake.
But when Alonso told him that young Franco would be a brilliant catch for any team that didn’t need any more left footers, the voice chuckled and said “you got the wrong O’Neill”. Then he chuckled again and hung up.
Ever sensing an opportunity to “sign” another country’s player, Dublin soon called. The phone rang again and a bizarrely similar voice to the first one spoke. Martin O’Neill was moving in.
Jara had however been doing his research and learned that, due to FIFA’s great great grandfather rule, he could play for either Southern or Northern Ireland, a rivalry known locally as the Dubs versus the Dobs.
Now it’s a matter of which O’Neill will make the first move.
Known collectively as ‘the Chuckle Brothers’, the O’Neills are best friends despite coming from different sides of the vicious Wigan/Manchester City divide. They both played Gaelic football as children as did Robbie Keane before they all grew out of it.
The choice is now Jara’s.
Both Irelands lie in second place in their World Cup groups although the South trail Serbia who are bound to be docked points at some point for some piece of thuggish Nazi stupidity by their fans.
Either way, wherever he goes, he will be welcomed by chants of “There’s Only One Frank O’Hara” or as they say in Villa Maria, “Sólo hay un Franco Jara.”