Thursday 17 August 2017

We picked rival teams from Dublin and Rest of Ireland GAA stars who dabbled with soccer

Frank Roche

Frank Roche

IT WAS just a short news snippet in yesterday’s Herald ‘Striker’ supplement but the name in the headline leapt from the page.

Stephen Cluxton, we were told, had lined out for Elm Mount in the Amateur Cup last Friday night - and with a certain distinction too, chipping in “with a goal and a couple of assists”.

While Jim Gavin’s All-Ireland holders have been concentrating on their club commitments in recent weeks, Dublin’s indomitable captain has obviously tried his hand (or rather feet) with another club in another code.

His goalscoring cameo got us thinking: how many Gaelic legends might have made their name in a very different, professional sporting world, if they had stuck with soccer?

With this in mind, we set about selecting two rival teams - one from the capital, the other from beyond the Pale - incorporating either GAA stars who dabbled with soccer; or GAA wannabes who instead made their football fame and fortune across the pond; or players who scaled the heights in both.

The latter select crew is led, of course, by Kevin Moran who was a marauding centre-back for Heffo’s Dublin in the 1970s before embarking on a glorious soccer career for country and a variety of clubs.

Dual stars of his iconic ilk are a lot harder to find nowadays but our respective line-ups - 15-a-side, not 11, we hasten to add - still include several Irish senior internationals.

Niall Quinn played in an All-Ireland minor hurling final for Dublin (in 1983) before becoming a Gunner and so much more. Shane Long was a Munster-winning Tipperary minor hurler before a soccer switch transformed his sporting life.

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His international team-mate, Stephen Ward, never quite made it as a Dub but he did play for Naomh Mearnóg.

Several of our selections had soccer trials in England but came to realise the lure of Gaelic football was so much stronger.

Some didn’t even make it that far ... Barney Rock was offered a trial by QPR in 1978 but politely declined, coming as it was the week before the Dublin minors faced Tyrone in an All-Ireland semi-final.

Others, such as Keith Barr (with Gillingham) and Anthony Tohill (with Manchester United), were given trials after they had established themselves as senior inter-county stars.

Some of our selections might strike you as odd ... but needs must. We’d a dearth of Dublin midfield options so plumped for Diarmuid Connolly (ex-Belvedere and Home Farm) alongside Bobby Doyle (Malahide United), the original roving corner-forward.

Speaking of roving, you might ask why Roscommon’s Shane Curran is corner-back ... but then, he started his Gaelic life outfield and rarely stuck to his goal-line sentry in any event!

As for managers, Jim McGuinness is the obvious Rest of Ireland choice but we’re going for a joint Dublin management team.

With Cluxton unable, for once, to supplant Shane Supple between the posts, he joins Paddy Cullen (himself a pretty handy soccer player in his day) at the Sky Blue helm.

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