Tuesday 17 March 2015

Top of the mornin to ye!!! Irish Hammers: Past, Present and Future...

On St Patrick's Day we get to celebrate all things Irish and it provides an ideal opportunity to consider how a team comprised of the greatest Irish Hammers might look. After a trawl through club records, we have coddled together a team from the most notable Irish players to turn out in the claret and blue.

Goalkeeper: We have had a lot of short stay Irish netminders at the club with no single player really making the position their own. Allen McNightmare was certainly the most memorable, sadly for all the wrong reasons – possibly making the greatest contribution of any single player to our relegation in 1989. Will we ever forget those many crazy moments when he came running off his line only to get stranded in no-man’s land!

We got a slice of Gerry Peyton towards the end of his career, mainly in a covering role while Roy Carroll performed pretty solidly until personal problems interrupted. David Forde never really got a proper chance and Noel Dwyer was well before our time.

Most recently we have had the services of Stephen Henderson who exited for Charlton in 2014 after a mere two league cup appearances. On balance, Roy Carroll gets the nod!

The defence was…frankly, worrying! Unbalanced and not endowed with aerial presence. There would undoubtedly be much sweating at set pieces.

Joey O’Brien at right back is a consistent and dynamic defender who has become a great servant to the club. His chances this year have been limited by karl jenkinson's availability but he is always willing and has never let the side down.

Centre back is a real patch up…..Gary Breen and Clive Clarke…Hmmm. At times we have seen Georgie McCartney provide pretty solid cover in that position but he was better suited to full back. Never the less, Clarke was too lacking in mobility and not suited to top level footie so we are left with Gazza Breen and Georgie.

Left back provide a more challenging call – We got a useful turn out of Chris Hughton at the twilight of his career but Noel Cantwell was a much more formidable left full from long ago and a previous club captian - he gets our selection.

Midfield is by far our strongest zone. Steve Lomas as enforcer and water carrier and a nice partner for Chippy Brady. Although Brady is primarily a Gooner, we got two very decent seasons out of him that included some cracking moments, and a delightful strike against the Gooners!.

Wee Michael Hughes was a great seizure from Wimbledon - gamey, if lacking in physicality, and with a useful habit of scoring at key moments. Both Frank O’Farrell and Tommy Moroney were key contributors in the early fifties but Tommy Moroney gets the final nod, mostly based upon his presence on the glorious Ireland team that was the first foreign team to beat the old enemy on their own turf at Goodison Park in 1949.

Up front, David Kelly underachieved – too light for top-level English football. David Connolly was too, well, David Connolly (i.e. perfectly average). Jimmy Quinn was a decent contributor in the late 80s while Robbie Keane came and went in the blink of an eye, with most of that time spent on the injury room table, but on the basis of what might have been he gets the nod, just!

And finally, Iain Dowie – a true Hammer who was not prolific by any means but always gave 100% and created opportunity for those around him. A real servant who had two determined spells at the club and is one of the more refreshing TV pundits about. Loyalty – a rare thing amongst our footballing folk these times.

So, a team that would by no means be worldbeaters, but we might expect plenty of effort and any team with Liam Brady could always find a moment of magic, while Michael Hughes would be sure to spoil a few Man United celebrations and Robbie could always find cause for a party!

Suits you Sir!
Of note, Kevin Nolan should be on this list but no manner of persuasion has been able to get him to use the Parents rule as qualification. Similarly, Mark 'O' Noble may yet decide to opt for Ireland as for some bizarre reason he has been unable to convert from U21 captain to full England honours and until Hodgson changes his mind or departs he remains eligible for Ireland by virtue of Cork grandparents.....C'mon Mark, join the party!

The new Tony Cottee??? 
Hammers fans will be hoping that our Irish youngsters in the development squad (striker Sean Maguire - pictured presently on loan at Accrington Stanley - and midfielder Josh Cullen (on the bench last weekend for the Arsenal match) as well as our academy lads - Declan Rice and Anthony Scully will eventually make the step upwards into the first team. Fingers crossed!

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