Having to physically connect the hardware AFTER bootup seems like a cumbersome approach to things. I think that our "Default-Guru" Rasmus might have an answer to this common circumstance. HOWEVER!
I would first like to ask why you are connecting this device to the internet directly?? If you already have other computer(s) connecting, why not connect "through" that device rather than along with it? It's better, easier and safer to do it like that. I am going through my Linux firewall and it is hosting DHCP to my IA-1. Works great, no problems. However, I haven't loaded Linux on it seriously yet. I want to continue using the Companion software for a bit longer because I'm learning all I can about it before abandoning it... what I'd LIKE to do is get at least one more of these IA-1's for Linux'ing... that's what I plan to do anyway.
Anyway, having to connect the device post-boot is an issue that needs to be addressed. Have you considered modifying the init process in some way? How about creating an init script for yourself that unloads the module, reloads the module and then performs the init processes for the ethernet device? That would most likely simulate the act of plugging it in post-boot wouldn't it?