The Best Irish Side Of Paul Little's Lifetime

The first game Paul Little can really remember was in 1977, so for the purposes of this game & for St Paddy's day, he has picked the greatest Irish players he has seen...

Last Updated: 16/03/12 at 15:56 Post Comment

Latest Articles

It Was Better When City Were Rubbish

Post comment

'I think I preferred it when we were s**t' says one City fan in the afternoon mailbox. There's a decent chat about the empty seats plus views on Liverpool and Roma...

No Good Reason Not To Try The Rooney Rule

Post comment

With black managers hugely under-represented in English football, Nick Miller says it's time to consider the potential benefits of the Rooney Rule. There is simply no good reason not to...

All Articles

With a nod to Paddy's Day (ah, sure tis a great day for the Irish!) I felt it timely to write something with more than a hint of green. So, in classic pub conversation style (and we Irish love a pub don't we - even if loads of them seem to be shutting down over here, suggesting we love off licences more in these straitened times) imagine you are manager of the Irish side heading into Euro 2012, and you can select a side consisting of any Irish player since 1977.

Why 1977? Well, as the proposer of this game, I have identified it as the year in which I first became fully aware of football. The FA Cup final of 1977 between Manchester United and Liverpool is the first game I can clearly remember. So, I'm picking my team based on Irish players I have actually seen playing. For that reason, certain Irish greats - John Giles chief amongst them - cannot be selected (Giles was winding down at this stage and I never saw him play). All formation options are open to you - but the idea is that this must be a team, rather than just a list of the best players to wear the green jersey. Here's my side - feel free to agree or disagree:


Formation
Classic 4-4-2. It's what we play now - it's what we played way back when - and its best suited to the personnel I want to select.


Goalkeeper
Really only two choices here - Pat Bonner or Shay Given. Bonner a stalwart of the Charlton years has a strong claim - but for me for simple consistency, it has to be Shay Given. Despite the penalty shootout against Romania, the heroics in Euro 1988, I just can't get Bonner's mishandling of Donadoni's effort in 1990 and the calamity of Orlando out of my head. Given, playing behind comparatively weaker defences, has the edge.


Defence
Despite all the great defenders we've had over the years, I've found this to be a simple enough decision. Centre halves - Mark Lawrenson and Paul McGrath. A complimentary, world class pairing - no explanation surely is required?

Full backs? Denis Irwin on the right and Steve Staunton on the left. The Corkman was comfortable on either flank and was considered by Sir Alex Ferguson to be one of his best signings. Dependable defensively, dangerous in attack, expert with a dead ball. Staunton offers similar qualities on the opposite flank - although Jim Beglin and Chris Hughton would push hard for a start.


Midfield
Here's where it gets most difficult. So many players to choose from in every position. Two stand out in the middle though - as two of our greatest ever players. In fact, two of the best the game has ever seen - Roy Keane and Liam Brady. For me, their status in the game just edges out Ronnie Whelan in a 4-4-2 formation. Keane has the presence and the power to dominate the middle of park, while Brady has the nous and the creativity to make it all happen.

Wide right, I'm going with Ray Houghton. Big game mentality, hard worker, clever user of the ball, scorer of critical goals. On the left, I'm torn. On quality alone, I'd pick Kevin Sheedy and his wand of a left foot. But if I were to have any concern about my side, it would be the lack of pace in attack. So, for that reason, I'm going for Liverpool winger and flying machine, Steve Heighway.


Forwards
Robbie Keane has to play. His international record just cannot be argued with. But who to pair him with? To get the best from Robbie, it seems you need to pair him with a target man, someone adept at holding up the play or getting all important flick ons. Keane worked particularly well with Niall Quinn and Tony Cascarino for Ireland. But for all the qualities those two big men bring to the game, neither could hold a candle to the great Frank Stapleton. Not a big man perhaps, but one of the best hold up players in the game - and the best header of a football I've ever seen. Clever with the ball at his feet as well - the perfect foil for Ireland's record scorer.


Bench
O'Leary, Beglin, Duff, Aldridge, Sheedy, Whelan - all close to a first team call up, but for the moment, they'll have to kick their heels in the dugout.

Can you better that side? If so, who and what am I missing? A touch of Gary Doherty perhaps? See what you think.

Paul Little

Football365 Facebook Fan Page

The Football365 fan page is a great place to meet like minded people, have football related discussions and make new friends.

Most Commented

Readers' Comments

I

put Ince in my fantasy football team, so it's no surprise at all really. I do that to players. Also responsible for De Jong and Upson being injured. Think I'll transfer in Di Maria just to ruin United....

megabrow (cufc)
F365's Top Ten Surprise Strugglers

L

ovren? £20m always seemed a touch on the expensive side, but I wasn't expecting him to be quite such a waste of money

stevenjameshyde
F365's Top Ten Surprise Strugglers

H

alf of our players have the physical presence of a 14 year old girl. I don't know why people are always shocked that they're injured.

TheWhiz
Wenger baffled by injuries

Latest Photos

Footer 365

Premier League: Sunderland boss Gus Poyet delighted Lee Cattermole stayed at club

Gus Poyet believes keeping Lee Cattermole was the best transfer decision he has made while at Sunderland.

Manchester United news: Rio Ferdinand says he has nothing against 'gentleman' David Moyes

Rio Ferdinand says David Moyes is a "great man" and would welcome a chat with the former Manchester United manager.

Championship: Gianfranco Zola has emerged as favourite for the vacant job at Fulham

Gianfranco Zola has emerged as a leading contender for the vacant manager’s position at Fulham, according to Sky Bet’s odds.

Mail Box

It Was Better When City Were Rubbish

'I think I preferred it when we were s**t' says one City fan in the afternoon mailbox. There's a decent chat about the empty seats plus views on Liverpool and Roma...

Do City Really Need To Expand Their Stadium?

That's the question posed by one Man United fan in the mailbox after seeing the empty seats at the Etihad last night. Sadly, there isn't a single mail from a City supporter...

© 2014 British Sky Broadcasting Ltd. All Rights Reserved A Sky Sports Digital Media property