difference of opinion

A brief history of Irish players falling out with the national team's management

Harry Arter is not the first Ireland player to step away from international football.

Harry Arter

Harry Arter File Photo Brian Lawless Brian Lawless

MARTIN O’NEILL CONFIRMED yesterday that Arter was taking a break from international football to focus on his club career and suggested that a row involving himself and Jon Walters with assistant boss Roy Keane was part of the reason for his decision. The incident has led some critics to question whether the 28-year-old will ever wear the green jersey again, with O’Neill tellingly explaining that he didn’t agree with the midfielder’s decision.

David O’Leary

Soccer - European Championship Qualifier - Group One - Ireland v England EMPICS Sport EMPICS Sport

The Arsenal legend had a long-running dispute with Jack Charlton. The defender was initially omitted from an end-of-season mini-tournament in Iceland, before being belatedly called up after others withdrew. By that point, O’Leary had booked a family holiday and declined the chance to be involved. The defender was subsequently frozen out of the squad and missed Euro ’88. However, unlike many others on this list, O’Leary’s story had a happy ending. He was ultimately recalled by Charlton and scored the famous winning penalty in the World Cup 1990 last-16 match with Romania.

Andy Reid

Soccer - International Friendly - Republic of Ireland v Latvia - Aviva Stadium PA Archive / PA Images PA Archive / PA Images / PA Images

Reid found himself in international exile in 2008, after then-manager Giovanni Trapattoni objected to the player leading a boozy sing-song in the early hours of the morning during an away trip.

“I let them drink beer. They had a free night. I said ‘Okay, 1 o’clock we go to bed. It comes to 1.30 and I say ‘Boys, bed,’” Trapattoni later explained.

“They said okay, but they were again at the bar. Not just Andy Reid, there were ten players. I said ‘Okay, go, give the guitar up. You must go in bed. It is finished, it is 2 o’clock.’

“We had a game in three days’ time. The table was like a pub with all the beer on it.”

Reid and others, however, subsequently claimed that Trap simply didn’t fancy him as a player and used the guitar incident as a convenient excuse to continually snub him.

In 2016, the former Tottenham and Nottingham Forest midfielder told Off the Ball: “I understand that not all type of managers like all type of players. I totally understand that and I just thought a top, top class manager would have handled it a different way and would have been more of a man about it really than the way that he went about it.”

Darron Gibson

Soccer - FIFA World Cup 2010 - Qualifying Round - Group Eight - Republic of Ireland v Cyprus - Croke Park PA Archive / PA Images PA Archive / PA Images / PA Images

Gibson made himself unavailable for Ireland squads after expressing disappointment at being overlooked for the team’s Euro 2012 matches. “I never really wanted to make a big deal of it to be honest with you. But after what happened at the Euros I just felt I couldn’t play under him anymore. I was embarrassed when I came back from the Euros (after) not winning a game and not getting on the pitch,” said the ex-Man United and Everton player, who returned from international exile following manager Giovanni Trapattoni’s departure as boss.

Mark Kennedy/Phil Babb

Babb Kennedy court charge PA Archive / PA Images PA Archive / PA Images / PA Images

In 2000, Kennedy and Babb were sent home from the Ireland squad in shame after being charged with drunken and abusive behaviour and causing criminal damage during a night out in Dublin. Both players subsequently apologised for their behaviour with Babb describing it as a prank that “got out of hand”. They were left out of future squads for a period, but manager Mick McCarthy eventually recalled both individuals, albeit a full two years later in Babb’s case.

David Connolly

Switzerland v Republic of Ireland PA Archive / PA Images PA Archive / PA Images / PA Images

In 2002, Connolly had a dispute with then-caretaker boss Don Givens. The former Wimbledon and Feyenoord striker claimed he was injured and unavailable for international duty, and that the manager hung up on him before he could explain this issue. Givens saw the matter differently, recalling the phone call in question to the media

“The conversation on the ‘phone on Saturday evening went ‘Hello David, it’s Don Givens, are you fit?’ He said ‘to what do I owe the honour of this phone call?’

“I said ‘I would like you to join the squad tomorrow.’ And he said ‘Why was I not selected in the original squad?’ I said ‘That was the choice I made.’

“Then he said ‘I should be the number one striker for Ireland, not number five.’

“At that point I said ‘David do you want to come tomorrow.’ He said ‘no’. Then I said ‘Right David, good luck’ and put the ‘phone down.

“And that is one hundred per cent what the ‘phone call was, nothing different to that. I said at the conference on Sunday what I thought about players not wanting to play for their country.” 

Stephen Ireland

Soccer - UEFA European Championship 2008 Qualifying - Group D - Republic of Ireland v Wales - Croke Park EMPICS Sport EMPICS Sport

Even before ‘Granny-gate’ and the furore it caused during the Steve Staunton reign, Ireland also made himself unavailable for selection during Brian Kerr’s tenure as national team manager.

In 2005, when he was being dubbed “the new Roy Keane” and starring in the Premier League for Manchester City, it emerged that Ireland would not represent his country “as long as Brian Kerr is there”.

The issue arose after Ireland was left out of the starting XI by Kerr for two U17 games in his native Cork in 2002. The youngster consequently neglected to stick around for the team’s final group game against Slovakia much to the chagrin of the then-underage boss.

Ireland later was quoted as saying in the aftermath of the initial snub:  ”It is fair to say I was astonished, and as we got on the bus later I asked him if I could go home to Manchester. He told me I would never play for Ireland again as long as he was in charge and that he would talk to me again at the hotel.”

The midfielder was consequently a notable absence from Kerr’s squads and only was handed his first call-up when Steve Staunton took charge of the national team.

Roy Keane

Mick McCarthy and Roy Keane at training Andrew Paton / INPHO Andrew Paton / INPHO / INPHO

Not much more can be said about one of the most famous incidents in Irish football history. Keane walked or was sent home by McCarthy depending on who you believe. The manager had been angered by the player’s public criticisms of the team and the training facilities prior to the 2002 World Cup, while the Man United legend was angered when the boss accused him of faking an injury. All hell broke loose amid a confrontation between the two in front of the entire squad. Keane later briefly returned to play international football during Brian Kerr’s tenure as manager.

Stephen Kelly

Stephen Kelly after the game Donall Farmer / INPHO Donall Farmer / INPHO / INPHO

Trapattoni left Kelly out of a 2013 Ireland squad to face Poland, with the Italian claiming the player said he would only turn up if he was assured of a place in the side.

The former Tottenham and Fulham player subsequently hit back at these comments, issuing a statement, part of which read: “It is extremely disappointing for me to have to make this statement. These hurtful and untrue comments have caused distress and upset to myself and my family, who have supported me throughout my career and know the level of commitment and passion I have always shown in representing my country.”

Anthony Stokes

Anthony Stokes Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

Another player to fall foul of Trapattoni, Stokes angered the Italian after he turned down a 2011 call-up for Ireland’s end-of-season Nations Cup games. The manager responded: “It is not a job like the working man’s. It is not a difficult job.

“It is unbelievable… We are lucky and we have to enjoy playing football.”

Stokes did not feature in any of Trapattoni’s future Ireland squads, missing out on the 2012 Euros despite enjoying good form with Celtic at the time. It was only after Trap left and Noel King was appointed interim manager that he returned to the squad.

Damien Delaney

Damien Delaney Donall Farmer / INPHO Donall Farmer / INPHO / INPHO

Not as high profile or controversial as other incidents listed here, Delaney was a conspicuous absence from a number of Ireland squads despite enjoying good form and playing regularly in the Premier League with Crystal Palace at the time.

The media questioned his non-selection, and the Cork native eventually came out with a statement. As with Arter, the need to focus on his club career was emphasised, but it was also clear he did not completely see eye to eye with O’Neill on a couple of issues. “I spoke to Martin O Neill and contrary to his recent comments I never asked for a regular starting position,” he explained

“I did however disagree with certain aspects which out of respect to Martin and the national team will remain private. Ireland need to plan for the long term even if it means sacrificing one maybe two major tournaments.”  

Kevin Foley

Kevin Foley Donall Farmer / INPHO Donall Farmer / INPHO / INPHO

“It is hard to take, you know. I sort of feel betrayed. I don’t want to go into too much detail. I just feel betrayed,” Foley told reporters, after being left out of the final Ireland squad for Euro 2012.

The former Wolves defender had been included in the initial squad, before Giovanni Trapattoni had second thoughts and opted instead to bring Paul McShane, who had at first been put on standby. 

“To get in the squad was a massive thing for me and then to get it taken away before a deadline which I didn’t even know about — I thought the deadline was when he named the squad — it was hard to take, it was upsetting,” Foley later recalled in an interview with The42.

However, the player said there was no long-term ill-feelings as far as his former manager was concerned, adding: “I don’t hold any grudges against him at all. Not one bit. He was trying to do [what was best] for the team.” 

Liam Brady 

Liam Brady 12/9/1984 Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

There was always tension with star player Liam Brady and manager Jack Charlton during the early part of latter’s reign as national team manager. A gifted technician, the Arsenal legend unsurprisingly didn’t exactly warm to Charlton’s route one tactics.

Their contrasting footballing philosophies culminated during a 1989 friendly match with West Germany at Lansdowne Road. Charlton substituted Brady after 35 minutes, and the pair had a furious argument at half-time, with striker Frank Stapleton needing to intervene. Brady, who was aged 33 at the time, immediately afterwards announced his international retirement and never played competitively for Ireland again.

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