Ireland’s greatest team?
Trapattoni has spoken and the team that will travel to Poland to compete in EURO 2012 has been confirmed. It is ten years since Ireland last competed at an international tournament, 24 years since their one and only European Championships. The team selection has not been without controversy, particularly Kevin Foley’s unceremonious dismissal, but that aside there have no real surprises. One worrying aspect is in recent years the quality of teams the players are playing for appears to have dropped. Since the departures of John O’Shea and Darron Gibson from Old Trafford there are no longer any regular Premier League winners in the squad. Damien Duff is the only other player to have won a Premier League title, winning two during his time at Chelsea. Is there any truth in this; was Ireland’s 2002 World Cup squad any better than the current crop? How do they compare to the first ever Irish squad to grace an international competition in 1988? Although numbers and statistics can be deceptive they do contain some element of truth. Particular attention will be paid of the number of players who are playing in the top tier of English football, the number of league title winners and those unfortunate players whose clubs were relegated. The squad lists are included further down so you, the reader, can draw your own conclusions.
EURO 2012: Players from five different leagues feature in Trap’s 23 man squad. While the Premier League provides the bulk of the squad there are also players from the Championship, the Scottish Premier League, the Russian Premier League and the MLS. However, the majority of the Premier League players play for the weaker sides; Darron Gibson’s seventh place finish with Everton is the highest among the Premier League contingent. Only two of the squad have won league titles this season; Robbie Keane tasted MLS success with L.A. Galaxy and Darren O’Dea was a member of Celtic’s SPL winning side, but neither league is particularly competitive. Worryingly there are three members of the Wolves team that finished rock bottom this season (had Foley made the squad this would have been four.)
Premier League: 16, Championship: 4, SPL: 1, Russian Premier League: 1, MLS: 1
2002 World Cup: Mick McCarthy famously landed on Saipan with 23 men and left with only 22, but the less said about that the better. All 23 played in England, either in the Premiership or the First Division. Surprisingly, there was only one league winner and that was Richard Dunne of Man. City, but they only won the First Division title. Matt Holland was the only member whose club were relegated, Ipswich dropping down to the Second Division. However there were a number of Irish players that finished in the top five of the Premiership with their clubs; Shay Given, Andy O’Brien (Newcastle), Ian Harte, Gary Kelly, Robbie Keane (Leeds) and Roy Keane (Man. United) all qualifying for European football the following season. Despite this the number of Premiership players in the squad from ten years ago is the same as this year’s, although Ireland’s key men were playing with the stronger clubs in England.
Premiership: 16, First Division: 7
So how do the two most recent squads compare with Ireland’s Euro ’88 heroes? Unsurprisingly Jack Charlton’s 20 man squad that travelled to Germany, and who were a mere eight minutes away from the semi-finals, is probably the strongest side Ireland has ever sent to an international tournament. There were seven league title winners in the squad: Packie Bonner, Mick McCarthy and Chris Morris were Scottish league champions with Celtic, Tony Cascarino helped Millwall win the Second Division title and John Aldridge, Ray Houghton and Ronnie Whelan were league winners with Liverpool. Kevin Moran, Paul McGrath (Man. United) and Kevin Sheedy (Everton) all finished in the top four in England with their clubs. On top of that all of the aforementioned players were first team starters at their respective clubs. The only member of the squad to suffer relegation was John Byrne, whose club Le Havre finished rock bottom in the French Division 1. Amazingly one of the Irish forwards, David Kelly, played for Walsall in the third tier of the Football League.
First Division: 12, Second Division: 3, Third Division: 1, Scottish Premier Division: 1, French Division 1: 1
The squads: Player (Club; league position)
EURO 2012 squad*:
David Forde (Millwall; CH 19th), Shay Given (Aston Villa; PRM 16th), Keiran Westwood (Sunderland; PRM 13th)
Richard Dunne (Aston Villa; PRM 16th), Stephen Kelly (Fulham; PRM 9th), Darren O’Dea (Celtic; SPL 1st), Paul McShane (Hull; CH 14th), John O’Shea (Sunderland; PRM 13th), Sean St Ledger (Leicester; CH 17th), Stephen Ward (Wolves; PRM 20th),
Keith Andrews (West Brom; PRM 10th), Damien Duff (Fulham; PRM 9th), Darron Gibson (Everton; PRM 7th), Paul Green (Derby; CH 12th), Stephen Hunt (Wolves; PRM 20th), James McClean (Sunderland; PRM 13th), Aiden McGeady (Spartak Moscow; RPL 2nd), Glenn Whelan (Stoke; PRM 14th)
Kevin Doyle (Wolves; PRM 20th), Simon Cox (West Brom; PRM 10th), Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy; MLS 1st), Shane Long (West Brom; PRM 10th), Jonathan Walters (Stoke; PRM 14th)
CH: Football League Championship / MLS: Major League Soccer / PRM: Premier League / RPL: Russian Premier League / SPL: Scottish Premier League
* correct as of 3rd June 2012
2002 World Cup squad:
Shay Given (Newcastle; PRM 4th), Alan Kelly (Blackburn; PRM 10th), Dean Kiely (Charlton; PRM 14th)
Gary Breen (Coventry; FL1 11th), Kenny Cunningham (Wimbledon; FL1 9th), Richard Dunne (Man. City; FL1 1st), Steve Finnan (Fulham; PRM 13th), Ian Harte (Leeds; PRM 5th), Gary Kelly (Leeds; PRM 5th), Andy O’Brien (Newcastle; PRM 4th), Steve Staunton (Aston Villa; PRM 8th)
Lee Carsley (Everton; PRM 15th), Damien Duff (Blackburn; PRM 10th), Matt Holland (Ipswich; FL1 18th), Roy Keane (Man. United; PRM 3rd), Kevin Kilbane (Sunderland; PRM 17th), Mark Kinsella (Charlton; PRM 14th), Jason McAteer (Sunderland; PRM 17th), Steven Reid (Millwall; FL1 4th)
David Connolly (Wimbledon; FL1 9th), Robbie Keane (Leeds; PRM 5th), Clinton Morrison (Crystal Palace; FL1 10th), Niall Quinn (Sunderland; PRM 17th)
FL1: Football League First Division / PRM: Premier League
EURO ’88 squad:
Packie Bonner (Celtic; SPD 1st), Gerry Peyton (Bournemouth; FL2 17th)
John Anderson (Newcastle; FL1 8th), Chris Hughton (Tottenham; FL1 13th), Mick McCarthy (Celtic; SPD 1st), Kevin Moran (Man. United; FL1 2nd), Chris Morris (Celtic; SPD 1st)
Tony Galvin (Sheffield Wednesday; FL1 11st), Ray Houghton (Liverpool; FL1 1st), Paul McGrath (Man. United; FL1 2nd), Kevin Sheedy (Everton; FL1 4th), Liam O’Brien (Man. United; FL1 2nd), Ronnie Whelan (Liverpool; FL1 1st)
John Aldridge (Liverpool; FL1 1st), John Byrne (Le Havre; FD1 20th), Tony Cascarino (Millwall; FL2 1st), David Kelly (Walsall; FL3 3rd), Niall Quinn (Arsenal; FL1 6th), John Sheridan (Leeds; FL2 7th), Frank Stapleton (Derby; FL1 15th)
FD1: French Division 1 / FL1: Football League First Division / FL2: Football League Second Division / FL3: Football League Third Division / SPD: Scottish Premier Division
Posted by Robert McNamara, Sports Editor on at 5:15 pm.
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