Under a different set of circumstances and but for a few quirks of fate, Jack Grealish, Declan Rice and Harry Kane might all have been sitting at home this summer instead of preparing to face Scotland at Euro 2020 tonight.

The Aston Villa midfielder and his West Ham counterpart were capped by the Republic of Ireland at Under-21 level and played through the age grades under the grandparent rule, controversially changing allegiance to the country of their birth when England came calling.

As for Kane, Martin O'Neill revealed in 2015 that the Football Association of Ireland had made an abortive attempt to recruit the Tottenham striker and his father, Pat, later confirmed that they had moved much too late with his son already committed to the England set-up from a young age.

While Grealish and Rice were high-profile defections at the time, Kane's Irish credentials are perhaps less well known. The England captain's grandfather Michael John Kane was born in the County Galway town of Letterfrack before emigrating as a teenager with his brothers Matty and Paudge Kane in the 1930s.

There remains a healthy contingent of Kanes living in the area today.

“There's loads, yeah, Michael John, his [Harry's] grandfather had a lot of siblings left,” says Kane's cousin Liz, from her Letterfrack home. “One of them is my dad, Joe Kane. There are four Kane families and then there's the girls who are Michael John's sisters. They are still alive – one lives in Carraroe and the other lives in Renvyle. So they are around the area. We have a lot of cousins living in the States and in London, of course. There's a road in Letterfrack and there would be a lot of Kanes [living] on that road, that's where Michael John hailed from before he went to London.

“We remember them as kids [Harry and his brother Charlie] coming back with their parents. He would come back with his brother. We wouldn't really have been in the same age group. I remember them as kids, as babies nearly.

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“The last time he was over in Letterfrack was for his grandfather's funeral. He's buried in Letterfrack and died in 2013. His dad and his uncles are very close to Letterfrack, they would have been here every three months but they haven't been back [recently] due to Covid.”

Three years ago, during the World Cup in Russia 2018, the local pub Molly's – possibly the only hostelry in Ireland with the England captain's shirt and a portrait of Irish republican Michael Collins mounted on the walls – ran a promotion which entitled patrons to a free pint when Kane scored at the finals. He ended up top scorer to the tune of six free pints per customer – a loss leader of epic proportions in an Irish pub – and Liz laughs when asked if they are running a similar offer for the Euros.

“I don't think so,” she giggles. “They're only after opening up again after Covid restrictions.”

Liz says that despite not having seen Harry for some time, the wider family remain avid followers of his career.

“We would be very friendly with his dad. His dad was back here nearly every three months and my parents are glued to the television every time Harry is playing. It doesn't really matter who he is playing with, they are always so interested. The highlight of their day is when Harry's playing. Totally. Crazy. They are very proud of him. Big Spurs fans, all of us.”

Liz, a bit of a star in her own right as a folk musician who played at Celtic Connections in January 2019 along with her sister Yvonne, says she can't wait to get back to Glasgow, which she calls “a lovely city”. Her fondness for Scotland's dear green place won't compromise family bonds, however. She'll be cheering on England this evening.

“We'll still have the flag flying here for Harry,” she laughs again.