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Dublin: 15 °C Friday 20 September, 2019

5 past Ireland bolters who forced their way into the squad ahead of major tournaments

Gary Kelly and other players who caught the eye ahead of major tournaments.

WITH PLAYERS SUCH as Alan Judge and Shane Duffy this week hoping to stake a late claim for a place in Ireland’s Euro 2016 squad, we decided to take a trip down memory lane.

The following players, who emerged late on to make the squad for major tournaments, will give the likes of Stephen Gleeson some hope ahead of tonight’s match with Slovakia.

1. Chris Morris — Euro 88 (age: 24, caps: 5)

Chris Morris 15/6/1988 Chris Morris of Ireland pictured playing against USSR. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

ONE OF THE least well-known members of Jack Charlton’s Euro 88 squad, the Celtic player was born in Newquay and qualified to play for the Boys in Green through his Irish-born mother. After making his debut in a 5-0 friendly defeat of Israel at Dalymount Park in November 1987, Morris took little time to consolidate the full-back slot. He ultimately became a stalwart of the side, featuring in every game at both Euro 88 and Italia 90. His time with the international team effectively ended, however, after they failed to reach Euro 92, earning the last of his 35 caps against Wales shortly thereafter.

2. Alan McLoughlin — Italia 90 (age: 23, caps: 1)

Soccer - Ireland Training - Malta Alan McLoughlin, Ireland arrives at the team hotel in Malta. Source: EMPICS Sport

In many ways, the Alan Judge of his day. McLoughlin had impressed for Swindon in the lower leagues, before he was controversially called up to replace the unfortunate Gary Waddock at the last minute ahead of the 1990 World Cup, despite appearing just once in a B international for Ireland before then. He played two of the games off the bench — against England and Egypt — and would later go on to score the crucial goal against Northern Ireland that qualified the Boys in Green for the 1994 World Cup. Speaking about the controversial circumstances behind his Italia 90 call-up in an interview with The42 last year, McLoughlin said: “It took a while for one or two of the players to accept the situation — I could understand that. They were obviously close to Gary as he had been involved in many squads before. I’m not sure if anything was said within the group but eventually I settled in.”

3. Gary Kelly — World Cup 94 (age: 19, caps: 5)

Gary Kelly Republic of Ireland V Germany 29/5/1994 Gary Kelly celebrates after scoring against Germany. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

One of the ‘Three Amigos’ along with Jason McAteer and Phil Babb, the young trio breathed life into what was an ageing squad overall ahead of the 1994 World Cup. Still a teenager at the time, Kelly had staked his claim for a place on the plane with a goal and an eye-catching performance during a 2-0 win over Germany in a pre-tournament friendly. The Leeds youngster ultimately played in the games against Norway and Holland, enhancing his reputation in the process, and going on to win 51 caps in total for his country.

4. Steven Reid — World Cup 02 (age: 21, caps: 5)

Robbie Keane celebrates 5/6/2002 DIGITAL Robbie Keane celebrates scoring with Damien Duff, Niall Quinn and Steven Reid at the 2002 World Cup. Source: INPHO

A young player with Millwall at the time, Steven Reid admitted in a recent Irish Independent column that he thought making the squad for the 2002 World Cup was “a long shot” at the time. Despite being born in England, he qualified to represent the Boys in Green through his Galway-born grandfather, and not only did he make the squad, he featured off the bench in two of the games at that summer’s big event.

5. James McClean — Euro 2012 (age: 23, caps: 3)

James McClean replaces Damien Duff Ireland's James McClean replaces Damien Duff for his competitive debut against Spain. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

By and large, Giovanni Trapattoni stuck with the same team that qualified Ireland for Euro 2012 in the first place. Meanwhile, certain highly rated but inexperienced players such as Seamus Coleman were left out of the squad. However, James McClean was the one somewhat surprising name to make the final panel, though there had been a clamour for him to travel, with then-Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill saying:  “I think he’s more than capable of going to Euro 2012… Hopefully he’s making such an impact he’ll be watched by someone in the Ireland camp, even if it’s not Trapattoni. They couldn’t fail to be impressed.” Yet despite many people urging Trapattoni to start the young winger, he made just one substitute appearance at the tournament ultimately — coming on for the final 14 minutes of the defeat by Spain.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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