Monday 24 July 2017

Brian Kerr: John O'Shea's medal haul may never be matched

Sunderland's John O'Shea. Photo: PA Wire
Sunderland's John O'Shea. Photo: PA Wire

Independent.ie Sportdesk

John O'Shea was in the Manchester United squad for that 2009 Champions League semi-final, and it is fair to say we will have to wait a while for another Irishman to reach that stage.

His haul of five league titles and a Champions League will also remain unmatched by an Irishman for many, many years.

I spoke to John for the first time in a while recently and he was still the same fella I first met nearly 20 years ago, courteous, polite and utterly unaffected by everything has happened in his career.

People would always wonder why Alex Ferguson persisted with him for so long but aside from his obvious talents, his character was such that he would never have caused any hassle - he had no ego and he did what he was told, which was important under Alex.

I played him left-full for Ireland as we were well covered in the central defensive areas. He probably lacked the physical attributes to be a central defender at that stage.

He trod what is now a well-worn path in the lower leagues and on the continent with Royal Antwerp, which served to both refine and harden his abilities.

My introduction to him was as an elegant centre-half alongside the rough and ready Jim Goodwin in a friendly with France in Tolka Rovers; within a year, they would help us win a European title in Scotland.

He had composure on the ball, anticipation in defence and an eye for the pass which wasn't always appreciated.

He played in a variety of positions, and I watched him frequently playing brilliantly alongside Roy Keane in the middle during the 2004/05 season.

He scored a late winner against Liverpool which will always ensure his place in Old Trafford folklore; he has had a great grounding in the game in a variety of positions and even ended up in goal one day, sweeping up against Spurs when Robbie Keane threatened to score.

I would say there is managerial potential in him but I look at him reflecting on the Sunderland situation, where he has played under seven different managers, as opposed to just one at United, and perhaps that might colour his view.

He is intelligent enough to have learnt from all his different managers but I don't know if he wants to go into that side of it.

I wouldn't be surprised to be see him end up in Ireland, like Damien Duff and Stephen McPhail.

And, regardless of his future status at Sunderland, he still has a vital role to play for Martin O'Neill in Ireland's attempts to qualify for the next World Cup too after deciding to re-commit to the national cause after Euro 2016.

He may not always be a starter for Martin but he still has plenty to offer.

Irish Independent

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