`Mr Consistency' leaves a void that will be hard to fill
NIALL QUINN, whose first encounter with Denis Irwin was in Croke Park as an Under-12, expressed his shock on being told of his Republic of Ireland teammate's decision to quit the international scene yesterday.
``It's a big shock to be honest. Everybody calls him Mr Consistency, and he is widely regarded as Manchester United's most consistent player but what they often overlook is that he is a real touch of class. To take that out of any side is sad, it's a blow.
``But you have to respect his decision. He's been away a lot with United, in Brazil and for the Champions' League. And you have to thank him for what he has done. ``The only consolation and it is scant consolation is that it is probably the best position for it to happen to as we have some fabulous full-backs.''
Quinn recalled his first meeting with Denis: ``He marked me in Croke Park, he was full-back and I was full-forward in an U-12 hurling match. I scored a point, he reckons it was a free, I can't remember,'' he laughed.
``Whatever happens I would hope to be at the Munster hurling final with him this year. We try to get to one game every year hurling of course. It's hard to get back for the big games, but I remember we went to the All-Ireland final when Tipp made the breakthrough against Antrim.''
When it came to soccer, their careers continued in tandem. They were on the Irish youths team managed by Liam Tuohy which reached the World Youth finals in '85 Denis played, Niall wasn't released by Arsenal and were on the B team which beat England 4-1 in Turner's Cross in 1990.
Irwin said: ``I'm quitting because of the time demands on international footballers nowadays.
``I've three young kids: Liam (7), Lauren (4) and Katie, who is almost two, and I want to spend more time with them and my wife Jackie.''
Irwin added: ``I enjoyed my stint playing for my country. It's a terrific honour and I will miss it.''
DENIS IRWIN FACTFILE
1965: Born October 31, in Cork, Republic of Ireland.
1982: Joins Leeds as an apprentice in March.
1983: Signs professional forms with Leeds on November 3.
1986: May 22 joins Oldham on a free transfer after making 82 appearances in all competitions for Leeds.
1990: Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson pays £625,000 to sign him.
1990: September 12 makes senior Republic of Ireland debut in match against Morocco. Becomes first player to be capped at six levels.
1991: Earns a winner's medal as United defeat Barcelona 2-1 in European Cup Winners' Cup final in Rotterdam and win European Super Cup.
1992: Wins League Cup.
1993: United's only ever-present in all competitions. Wins first Premiership champions medal.
1994: Part of United team which wins FA Cup and Premiership Double.
June Plays for Republic of Ireland in World Cup finals in USA.
1996: United win Double again.
1997: Wins fourth Premiership title with United.
1999: United win FA Cup, Premiership and Champions League Treble, but Irwin misses FA Cup Final after being red-carded in Premiership game against Liverpool.
Is named as one of five Man Utd players selected by professionals for PFA award-winning Premiership side.
2000: January 21 announces international retirement after winning 56 caps.