remember him?

The curious case of Joe Lapira and his solitary Ireland cap

Six years on, Stan’s decision to play the American-born striker remains one of the strangest in Irish football.

Joe Lapira and Joe Gamble. Credit: INPHO/Donall Farmer

MENTION THE NAME ‘Joe Lapira’ to a group of Ireland fans and you are bound to evoke a snigger or two.

During Steve Staunton’s ill-fated tenure, perhaps his most bizarre decision of all was to call up an unknown striker plying his trade in college football with Notre Dame.

It was May 2007, when friendly fixtures against Ecuador and Bolivia saw Stan bring an inexperienced squad to the US. Uncapped players such as Joseph O’Cearuill (Arsenal), Stephen O’Halloran (Aston Villa) and Irish-based Joe Gamble (Cork City) were handed the chance to impress with a raft of players missing for various reasons.

There was one call-up which came as a complete shock, however. Lapira, at the time a 20-year-old business studies student originally from New York, was invited to train with the team after it was discovered that he qualified to play for Ireland through his Dublin-born mother.

The fact that he was chosen ahead of others playing at a higher standard in Britain and the League of Ireland was baffling. The situation became even more farcical when he was actually introduced for a first Ireland cap at any level with four minutes to go in the 1-1 draw with Ecuador.

The brief cameo meant Lapira became the first amateur player in more than 40 years to play for the country’s senior side.

During a game in which 11 uncapped players made their debuts, Kevin Doyle scored a first half header after former Birmingham City frontman Christian Benitez had notched for the South Americans in front of 20,000 at Giants Stadium.

On the field during his only Ireland appearance to date. Credit: INPHO/Donall Farmer

Over six years on from the game, Lapira has yet to add to his single cap and will almost certainly never get the opportunity to.

Trials with Rangers and Aberdeen that summer were unsuccessful and he ended up at Nybergsund IL-Trysil - a second division Norwegian club. It began promisingly - he scored twice on his debut and added another 14 goals in two seasons before departing for Indian second tier side United Sikkim.

In 2011 he made a return to Norway but has since left and, although he appeared for the Vancouver Whitecaps during a trial period in February, at 26, his current whereabouts are unknown.

Will we ever witness anything of the kind again? Let's hope not.

Staunton's post-match interview from that night:

YouTube credit: eircomsoccer

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