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‘These boys can still move’ – Introducing Ireland’s new Over-40s team

A number of former League of Ireland players have come together to set up an international side.

The Irish team which took on Northern Ireland. Credit: PFAI

THEY MAY BE Ireland’s newest international team, but they’re also the oldest.

Set up earlier this year by ex-Leyton Orient, Shamrock Rovers and St Patrick’s Athletic midfielder Mark O’Neill, the team is comprised a host of former League of Ireland stars including Marc Kenny, Tony Sheridan, Derek Tracey, Paul Byrne, Eddie Gormley and Mark Rutherford.

The idea came about when O’Neill, who acts as player/manager with one-time Shamrock Rovers boss Mick Byrne, got in touch with friend and Northern Ireland veterans manager Seamus Heath, who was interested in pitting his team against a side from the Republic.

O’Neill got the Players Football Association of Ireland (PFAI) involved and rounded up a squad for that debut game, which took place in front of around 500 people at Peamount United’s ground in Greenogue back in March.

The match finished 3-1 in favour of the newly-formed home team thanks to the two late goals.

“I’m involved with Peamount’s Over-35s team which is one of the best in the country in its age group,” O’Neill explained to The Score.ie this week.

“There’s a lot of depression among players when they stop playing football and that was part of the reason I had this vision to start up an Over-4os side.

Any perception that it would be a squad full of overweight lads is well off the mark. These boys can still move and the games are very good standard of football. If Ryan Giggs can do it at his age then why can’t we!”

With Puma and a number of other sponsors coming on board, the team have gone on to play a series of challenge matches against representative outfits from around the country such as Waterford (whose squad included Paul McGrath and Noel Hunt) and Edenderry (with Olympic medal-winning boxer John Joe Nevin taking part).

They have fixtures against the Czech Republic and Wales lined up for August but right now O’Neill is working on getting recognised officially by the FAI.

Eddie Gormley captaining the team against Waterford. Credit: PFAI

Discussions with chief executive John Delaney haven taken place and a decision is expected in the coming days. Getting the green light would potentially see some ex-senior internationals such as Niall Quinn and Jason McAteer joining up.

It would also mean FAI caps were handed out to the players for each match, just as they are with the rest of the sides – from schoolboy to the defence forces right up to senior level.

A decision from the FAI is pending,” adds O’Neill. “If they agree, it would become a mixture of PFAI players and ex-seniors.

“I think there is 14 of our current players previously-capped by the FAI at junior or youth level so it’s an extension. If it doesn’t happen, we’re still moving forward but it would be nice.”

There have also been talks with the Irish Greyhound Board about playing their home games at Harold’s Cross Stadium, which in the past was used as by several teams including St Patrick’s Athletic while work was being done on Richmond Park in the early 90s.

“We are looking at regulating the pitch and bringing football back to Harold’s Cross.”

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