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11th Jul 2020

An Ireland XI of players who didn’t get the recognition they deserved

Eric Lalor


Good players who simply weren’t adored.

We’ve decided to pick an Irish XI from the last couple of decades, with players we just don’t feel got the recognition they probably deserved.

Dean Kiely 11 caps, 1999-2008

Dean Kiely was with the Irish set-up for nine years but only made 11 appearances, which is a testament to his patience and willingness to buy into the importance of having a squad.

Went to the World Cup in 2002 as Shay Given’s understudy and according to the man from Lifford, he made his presence felt, even if he didn’t play. According to Given, it was Kiely who broke the tension in the immediate aftermath of Roy Keane and Mick McCarthy’s infamous falling out in Saipan. Shay wrote in his book ‘If you need a midfielder, I can play there – I’ll do you a job.’

Steve Finnan 53 caps, 2000-08 (2 goals)

The quiet, unassuming Limerick defender had a pretty amazing career. Not only was he a member of the Liverpool team on that night in Istanbul in 2005, but did you know he’s also┬áthe only player to have played in the World Cup, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Cup, Intertoto Cup, all four levels of the English league football and the Football Conference?

He was a very good defender for Ireland but has never been revered in the same way we look at the likes of Denis Irwin or Seamus Coleman.

Terry Phelan 42 caps, 1991-2000

One of the infamous Crazy Gang at Wimbledon, he also played for Chelsea, Everton and Manchester City. Blessed with searing pace, he was a full-back who liked to get up and down the touchline.

Played in the famous Giants Stadium 1-0 win over Italy in USA ’94 and was the one who shepherded all the players around Houghton after he scored, in order to give him the congratulations he deserved. A very under-rated player.

Kenny Cunningham 72 caps, 1996-2005

He may not be everyone’s cup of tea when it comes to TV punditry, but there is no denying his merits as a defender who rarely let anyone down. Played a lot for his country and was always solid and dependable, yet has never really received the accolades and praise he deserves.

Sean St Ledger 37 caps, 2009-13 (3 goals)

A big favourite of Giovanni Trappatoni, which probably meant he wasn’t ever going to be high in the popularity stakes with nostalgic Irish fans. He was another uncompromising defender who had a knack for scoring some important goals.

His late strike against Italy at Croke Park was a very important one and he was the only player to score for us in our disastrous European Championship tournament in Poland/Ukraine back in 2012. He scored the equaliser against Croatia in our opening game.

Matt Holland 48 caps, 1999-2005 (5 goals)

The man who served Ipswich and Charlton so well had a decent career with Ireland. Rarely if ever let us down, but will probably never be loved and adored like some of his peers.

He’s another who scored some vital goals including the equaliser against Portugal in a 1-1 draw in a World Cup qualifier for 2002. We got to the 2002 finals in Japan/South Korea and again it was Holland who scored the all-important equaliser against Cameroon in our opening group game.

Alan McLoughlin 42 caps, 1990-99 (2 goals)

Another midfielder who always seemed to be on the periphery of things, but really should have a statue made in tribute to him for his goal against Northern Ireland at Windsor Park in 1993 which meant we qualified for USA ’94.

It was a match where we looked lost and against the backdrop of a very hostile, vitriolic home crowd, we needed a bit of a miracle. Happily, McLoughlin provided it with a great strike.

Steven Reid 23 caps, 2001-08 (2 goals)

Currently the first-team coach at Crystal Palace, the versatile Reid was another beset with injuries and should really have had a lot more caps to his name.

A big strong pacy player, he was loved by managers for his ability to play in a lot of positions. He even got the armband as he captained Ireland in a friendly match against Holland in 2006, but he won’t have fond memories of it as Ireland were comprehensively beaten 4-0 by the Dutch.

Kevin Sheedy 46 caps, 1983-93 (9 goals)

He was a hugely influential part of the all-conquering Everton team of the mid-80s. With a wand of a left foot, he never quite got the plaudits his talents deserved when wearing the green of Ireland.

Will always be remembered for his scorcher of a goal against England in our opening game of Italia ’90.

David Kelly 26 caps, 1987-97 (9 goals)

Scored a hat-trick on his debut in a 5-0 win over Israel in a friendly international back in 1983. He was a very prolific striker and if it wasn’t for injuries would surely have added to his goal and cap total playing for Ireland.

Represented Ireland at Euro ’88, Italia ’90 and USA ’94. He also scored the infamous goal against England in a friendly international at Landsdowne Road which sparked crowd trouble from the English supporters and subsequent abandonment of the game.

Tommy Coyne 22 caps, 1992-97 (6 goals)

A ridiculously prolific striker at club level with both Celtic and Motherwell, he was a favourite of Jack Charlton’s and played three of our four matches at USA ’94. Scored on his debut against Switzerland in a 2-1 win, but never really won the hearts of the Irish fans.





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