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

F365's Transfer Guide - Part Five

Post comment

Our final part, and the question of what on earth will happen at West Ham? Plus there is much to ponder for Spurs - evolution or yet another revolution at White Hart Lane...

F365's Transfer Guide - Part Four

Post comment

The penultimate part of our transfer guide brings us to intrigue surrounding Southampton and Swansea. Plus, will Mark Hughes finally be able to loosen the purse strings?

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

N

ow is the time for Allardyce to finally get a chance at a big club please. He is likely to have a number of great offers for his services this summer, but who will he choose? Will it be Liverpool, Real Madrid, Dortmund or Man City?

medina_sod
Allardyce leaves West Ham

I

thought exactly this when the Match of the Day pundits were peddling this line. Is it really not okay for fans of a club to have some ambition these days then?

damoceltic
Bored Of Big Sam? It's Your Right...

H

ow magnanimous off him - to leave if he's asked to by the owners? What's the alternative, bunker down in his office claiming squatter's rights if FSG want rid?

feed the bear
Rodgers: I'll go if owners want

Latest Photos

Footer 365

Ian Baraclough was delighted Motherwell's game plan worked at Ibrox

Ian Baraclough says Motherwell's game plan worked perfectly as they won 3-1 at Rangers in the Premiership play-off final

Stuart McCall disappointed by slack Rangers in Motherwell defeat

Stuart McCall says Rangers gave their poorest performance under him as they lost their play-off tie against Motherwell

FA chairman Greg Dyke calls for possible Russia 2018 boycott

FA chairman Greg Dyke wants UEFA nations to consider pulling out of the World Cup finals in Russia in two years' time.

Mail Box

What Is It That FIFA Actually Do?

That's the question raised timidly by someone sat at the back of the room, whilst others remind that UEFA aren't perfect either. Plus a few more gone on to better XIs...

Time To Step Up, Mr Platini...

UEFA should step up and extend the Euros to replace FIFA's tarnished World Cup, say a couple of mailboxers. Also: all hail Carlo, King of the Kop, and plenty more Budget XIs...

© 2015 Sky Ltd. All Rights Reserved A Sky Sports Digital Media company