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15 Irish footballers past and present who have been controversially snubbed

Following the debate surrounding Noel King’s team selection last Friday, we look at other contentious decisions made by the national side’s managers.

NOEL KING’S TEAM selection against Germany last Friday caused much consternation.

Many commentators were subsequently left questioning his tactics and player selection policy.

And while it has been particularly prominent of late, the ‘why isn’t player x playing?’ complaint is hardly a new phenomenon. In fact, it has been a recurring theme within the Irish set-up for several decades.

Below are 15 of the most memorable occasions when critics have been left scratching their heads.

1. John Giles

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(Pa Photos/PA Archive/Press Association Images)

What happened? Back in Giles’ time, the Irish team was picked by a much-reviled FAI panel rather than a manager. Hence, there tended to be some eccentric decision-making, including the Leeds legend at one stage being left out to accommodate the one League of Ireland player that had to be chosen in each team of the time.

2. Liam Brady

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(INPHO/Billy Stickland)

What happened? Liam Brady was reluctant to embrace Jack Charlton’s direct style of football, and as a result, he was eventually ousted from the team by the Englishman and retired after the manager famously subbed him before half-time in a friendly with West Germany.

3. David O’Leary

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(INPHO/Billy Stickland)

What happened? O’Leary was made to pay, as he was banished from the squad after refusing to make himself available for an end-of-season friendly tournament. He later returned and dramatically scored the winning penalty for Ireland during their famous second-round 1990 World Cup match with Romania.

4. Ronnie Whelan

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(INPHO/Billy Stickland)

What happened? Many critics felt the talented Liverpool midfielder was under-used during the Charlton era because (like Brady) of his creatively inclined ways. Therefore, Whelan was only a peripheral member of the 1990 World Cup team.

5. Frank Stapleton

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(INPHO)

What happened? Another player who Charlton seemed reluctant to trust. In the late 80s and early 90s, Stapleton was easily Ireland’s most skillful forward. However, the more physically robust likes of Tony Cascarino and Niall Quinn were often preferred to him.

6. Denis Irwin

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(INPHO/Billy Stickland)

What happened? Despite being invariably regarded as Ireland’s finest full-back, Irwin wasn’t always first choice under Mick McCarthy, with the then-Irish boss controversially telling the Man United legend to “prove himself” and sometimes picking Jeff Kenna among others ahead of him.

7. Roy Keane

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(INPHO/Billy Stickland)

What happened? A fallout with Mick McCarthy led to Keane exiting the Irish squad prior to the 2002 World Cup in what was surely the most controversial saga in Ireland’s footballing history. Keane later briefly returned to the Irish set-up when Brian Kerr was manager.

8. Kenny Cunningham

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(INPHO/Lorraine O’Sullivan)

What happened? Cunningham had been a defensive stalwart for the early part of the Mick McCarthy reign. However, injuries caused him to miss pivotal qualifiers for the 2002 World Cup. He got over his fitness problems in time for the tournament proper, and many expected him to regain his place in the side, but — to some people’s surprise — McCarthy opted to pick Steve Staunton and Gary Breen ahead of him.

9. Robbie Keane

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(INPHO/James Crombie)

What happened? During Brian Kerr’s time as manager, Ireland desperately needed a goal in a vital game against Switzerland at Lansdowne Road to keep their World Cup qualification hopes alive. Therefore, it was to the shock of many that Kerr bravely substituted Keane in the all-important climactic stages of the encounter. Granted, it was only a partial snub, but it was still an extremely controversial decision given the circumstances. Ireland failed to score without Keane anyway, and their qualification hopes were consequently ended.

10. Stephen Ireland

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(INPHO/James Crombie)

What happened? “His exile is self-imposed,” I hear you cry. True, but even before Granny-gate, there was a clamour for Stephen Ireland to be in the squad that was ignored by Brian Kerr, who had fallen out with the player at underage level.

11. Andy Reid

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(INPHO/James Crombie)

What happened? Calls for Reid to be in the team have been loud, quiet and now loud again, owing to the fantastic season he is having with Nottingham Forest. He was initially banished by Trapattoni for playing his guitar too loudly in the team hotel late at night, before finally returning to the set-up this month.

12. Wes Hoolahan

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(INPHO/Donall Farmer)

What happened? Although he was selected in the Italian’s first squad, Wes Hoolahan was ignored by Trap for the most part, despite being a regular in a steadily improving Norwich side for many of the years during the veteran coach’s reign.

13 Darron Gibson

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(INPHO/Donall Farmer)

What happened? Not for the first time, Gibson fell out with Trap after he was an unused substitute for all of Ireland’s Euro 2012 campaign, with less high-profile players such as Paul Green being put ahead of him in the pecking order. After being left out continually, Gibson then decided to make himself unavailable for the remainder of Trap’s tenure.

14. Seamus Coleman

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(INPHO/Donall Farmer)

What happened? While Trap eventually began picking him consistently, selecting first Kevin Foley and then, Paul McShane as reserve right-backs for Ireland’s Euros squad was arguably one of the manager’s most bizarre decisions, given the obvious talent of the Everton star.

15. Aiden McGeady

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(INPHO/James Crombie)

While there was more than one controversial choice in Noel King’s first game in charge, playing Glenn Whelan on the right and leaving Aiden McGeady — an out-and-out winger — on the bench was perhaps the most contentious call last Friday.

Who should we have included?

Snapshot: St Pat’s players celebrate title-clinching goal with young supporter>

Keane resumes full training, King hopeful he’ll be available for Kazakh clash>

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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