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Dublin: 4 °C Wednesday 11 December, 2019
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'We all know about the tragic circumstances of the night and the life-changing events. It's a very important game'

Former Ireland and Liverpool defender Phil Babb will be in action during the Seán Cox fundraiser game this evening in Dublin.

Babb in action against Scotland at the old Lansdowne Road in 2000.
Babb in action against Scotland at the old Lansdowne Road in 2000.
Image: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

YOU GET THE sense that Phil Babb really and truly is looking forward to sticking the old boots back on and getting back out onto the pitch later tonight in Dublin.

The former defender is preparing to play 45 minutes each for the Liverpool Legends and Ireland Legends at the Aviva Stadium during today’s Seán Cox fundraiser game, which is seeking to raise much-needed funds for the injured Liverpool supporter.

Mr Cox, a father-of-three passionate about football and GAA in Dunboyne, suffered life-changing injuries after being attacked before Liverpool’s Champions League semi-final against Roma almost one year ago.

Later this evening an array of legendary figures involved in Liverpool and Ireland teams of years gone by will battle it out in a highly-awaited exhibition seeking to raise funds for the 54-year-old’s medical expenses.

Mick McCarthy will manage the Irish side starring Robbie Keane, Ray Houghton, Ronnie Whelan, Lee Carsley, Jason McAteer, John Aldridge, Kevin Doyle and Damien Duff. Kenny Dalglish will oversee a Reds side featuring Robbie Fowler, Ian Rush, Jerzy Dudek, Glen Johnson, Patrik Berger, Steve McManaman, Vladimir Smicer and Djibril Cisse, amongst others.

Soccer - Coca-Cola Cup - Quarter-final - Liverpool v Arsenal - Anfield Babb dribbles past Arsenal's Ray Parlour for Liverpool in 1995. Source: EMPICS Sport

Having represented both club and country with distinction, Babb, alongside Aldridge, Keane and McAteer will each play one half of football for Liverpool and for Ireland, with Babb relishing the opportunity to finally grace the surface of the Aviva.

“I’ve done a lot of media work at the Aviva Stadium and I’ve been behind the glass, so it’ll be great to get on the pitch again and experience that crowd out there,” he says. “The Irish fans have always supported me through thick and thin. I loved my Irish career and thoroughly enjoyed wearing the green shirt, and I look forward to doing it again on Friday night.

For me, I’ve covered a lot of the Irish games over the years. We’ve been at the Aviva a lot, marvelled at it because we’ve never had a stadium like this. The old Lansdowne Road was pretty much a cow-pitch, so it’ll be nice now to put on the red shirt for the Legends of the last couple of years, and then to put on the green shirt again will be something special too.”

The 48-year-old made a total of 35 appearances for the national team between 1994 and 2002, representing Ireland at the 1994 World Cup in the United States and forging a memorable part of a number of Jack Charlton’s sides throughout the nineties.

The playing surface at the old Lansdowne was nothing compared to the carpet present at its new incarnation, he jibes, with his abiding memories of his time at the old, worn-down ground mostly of Charlton loudly insisting on playing long balls up to Niall Quinn.

“My memories of the old Lansdowne were just Jack saying ‘lump it up to Quinney!’” Babb smiles. “The modern game has changed, hasn’t it?

“There are decent pitches now, but we were playing at a time where literally the rugby boys were training on it 24 hours before we’d play on it, and they hadn’t replaced the divots.

“You could argue that that’s why we played a certain way under Jack. It’s a fantastic arena now and let’s see if we can get as many people in there on Friday as possible, because it’s a special occasion.”

Babb had absolutely no doubts about getting involved in tonight’s fundraiser in aid of Seán Cox, explaining that the tragic circumstances of last April’s attack outside Anfield should never fall upon any football supporter travelling to a match.

We all know about the tragic circumstances of the night and the life-changing events that have happened since, so it’s a very important game,” he states.

“Liverpool has asked so many established stars to turn up and pull the red and green shirts on and I don’t anyone said no when they were asked. So it is a celebration, but it’s also for worthy cause.

“We want people to turn up and we’ll put a show on. They’ll be some laughs, it’ll be an emotional night, but it’ll be good fun at the end of the day. The fact that Seán is getting better is fantastic. Of course there is a long road ahead of him and that’s why it’s important for people to turn up and keep supporting.”

sean-cox Mr Cox will be in attendance at tomorrow's fundraiser in Dublin.

He believes Liverpool retains a special quality to rally around its members in times of need, as seen in the overwhelming response to the attack suffered by Seán Cox 12 months ago outside Anfield.

“Liverpool is such a special club,” Babb says. “We’ve done so many charitable events with the foundation over the years. I’ve been blessed to be a part of that and I think it’s about giving back. Obviously with Seán, there’s the Irish connection there.

We’ve spoken about his rehabilitation; from getting out, to interacting again,” Babb pauses before offering a wry joke. “Obviously watching me score a hat-trick tonight will hopefully put a smile on his face.

“But no, it was a no-brainer for me to get involved. As I said, everyone that was asked has turned up. There are some well-established stars turning up, so it’s going to be a great event for a worthy cause.”

Tickets for tonight’s charity match can be purchased through Ticketmaster and donations can be made to Seán and his family on the Go Fund Me page Support Sean Cox.

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Aaron Gallagher

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