Irish roots of Argentina's World Cup winner Alexis Mac Allister

Irish roots of Argentina's World Cup winner Alexis Mac Allister

IRELAND may not have been at the World Cup in Qatar but Irish fans were able to get behind Argentina in Sunday's final thanks to one of their player's Irish links.

Before this year, Alexis Mac Allister had only earned two caps for Argentina, but has impressed since breaking back into the national team in March.

The 23-year-old Brighton midfielder has since made 12 appearances for Lionel Scaloni's side, six of those coming in Qatar, where he starred for Argentina in the final victory over France.

Mac Allister opened the scoring in Argentina’s 2-0 group stage win over Poland (Image: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

He missed Argentina's opening group game defeat to Saudi Arabia but started the six remaining games as Argentina lifted the trophy for the third time.

He scored the opener in the group stage victory over Poland, while in the final he he assisted Angel di Maria's goal to make it 2-0.

Obviously, a surname like Mac Allister stands out on a team sheet including names such as Messi, Alvarez and Martinez, so what is the story behind his heritage?

Co. Antrim roots

Former GAA President Aogán Ó Fearghail claimed recently on Twitter that the Mac Allister family originated in Cushendall, Co. Antrim, before relocating to the village of Donabate, around 10 miles north of Dublin.

The Irish Times adds that Mac Allister's great-great-grandfather left Donabate for South America in 1868.

In his tweet, Ó Fearghail shared a picture of himself with Mac Alister's cousin Ricardo 'Dickie' Mac Allister, a former president of Buenos Aires Hurling Club based in the city of Hurlingham.

The photo was taken in February 2018 when Dickie received the International Award at the GAA President's Awards.

Speaking to RTÉ News at One this week, Dickie explained that Alexis' grandfather relocated from Pergamino in Buenos Aires to La Pampa in central Argentina.

Meanwhile, BBC Northern Ireland spoke to residents of Cushendall, where the Mac Allisters originated and where the name remains very common.

"The place is coming down with them and there are two or three different ways of spelling it," said Fergus McAllister of the local GAA club.

"There's McAlister with one L, McAllister with two Ls, [Alexis'] is spelt Mac Allister, but that is the gaelic spelling of it.

"If I was to spell my name for a hurling match that is how I would be spelling it."

Sporting family

Alexis' father Carlos was also a footballer, who played for Argentinos Juniors and Boca Juniors.

He also made three appearances for Argentina, lining out alongside the likes of Diego Maradona, Gabriel Batistuta and Diego Simeone.

In 2004, he told Argentine sports magazine El Gráfico how he had lost touch with his Irish roots but still hoped to see Ireland one day.

Alexis’ father Carlos Mac Allister pictured in 2016 (Image: JUAN MABROMATA/AFP via Getty Images)

Alexis' brothers, Francis and Kevin, are also footballers, playing with Rosario and Argentinos Juniors respectively.

Their uncle Patricio, Carlos' brother, was also a footballer, playing for clubs in Argentina, Mexico and Japan.

While he may not be wearing green, Irish fans at least had someone to cheer as Mac Allister helped Argentina to World Cup glory in Qatar.