Monday 20 May 2019

10 reasons why we will always remember the legend that is John O'Shea

John O'Shea, left, celebrates after scoring away to Germany
John O'Shea, left, celebrates after scoring away to Germany

Sam Roberts

John O'Shea will play his last game in a green jersey against the USA in the Aviva stadium this Saturday, 17 years and well over 100 caps since he made his debut under Mick McCarthy as a substitute against Croatia.

The Waterford man will retire as one of Ireland's most decorated players, appearing over 250 times for Manchester United, winning several Premier League titles and of course lifting a Champions League during his time at the club.

We honour the legacy of an all-time Irish great as we look back at some of the best moments from O'Shea's career for club and country:

1. Goal v Germany

He only has three international goals, but O'Shea clearly valued quality over quantity. With the last minute of extra-time ticking away, O'Shea poked home Jeff Hendrick's cross to equalise with the last kick of the game in Ireland's Euro 2016 qualifier against the world champions Germany, earning a precious draw in Gelsenkirchen.

2. Goal v Arsenal

Perhaps the defining moment of a storied career, if people are talking about John O'Shea 100 years from now, this goal will probably be why. Man United were taking on Arsenal at Highbury when O'Shea somehow found himself charging towards the Arsenal penalty box, taking Paul Scholes' pass in his stride and lofting a beautifully weighted chip over Manuel Almunia. The bewildered look on O'Shea's face providing the icing on the cake for this unexpected, but wonderful, piece of skill.

3. Keeper v Spurs

O'Shea was always famed for his versatility, and he took that reputation to new heights when, with five minutes left at White Hart Lane, Manchester United needed a replacement for the injured Edwin van der Sar. With all their substitutes already used, the Waterford man stepped up to take the gloves and, as ever, O'Shea did not look out of place, even getting the better of fellow Irish legend Robbie Keane in a 1-on-1

4. Nutmegging Luis Figo

Beckham, Giggs, Ronaldo, and Zidane were among the names to grace the Old Trafford pitch for the second-leg of their Champions League quarter-final, but even they would have envied this piece of skill, pulled off against one of the best players of the decade in Luis Figo to boot.

5. Winner v Liverpool

Perhaps we shouldn't have been so surprised when O'Shea popped up in the last-minute in Germany as he had already shown us he was a man for the big moments in the big games. In 2007 title-chasing United were down to 10 men at Anfield after a Paul Scholes red card, and with the clock ticking down O'Shea was the first to pounce on the loose ball in the Liverpool penalty area, firing home to give his side victory over their great rivals.

6. Defending v Spurs

While the goals are the most memorable moments from O'Shea's career, he is ultimately a defender first and foremost, and the Waterford man demonstrates why he made well over 200 appearances for one of the biggest clubs in world football with this piece of defending against Spurs at Old Trafford.

7. Identical nutmeg v Schalke

Luis Figo was the most famous victim but O'Shea has terrorised many players on the Old Trafford left wing, this nutmeg against Schalke eerily similar to the earlier Figo incident.

8. Drag back and shot/assist:

O'Shea's lesser spotted attacking prowess was on display again in St. James's Park in 2003, beating two men before seeing his effort cannon off the crossbar, ultimately providing the assist for Ryan Giggs.

9. Derby County goal:

Derby County were on the receiving end of another of O'Shea's rare goals in red, but much like his strike against Arsenal you would be forgiven for thinking O'Shea was a veteran striker with the composure of this finish.

10. Being a classy guy

A class act on and off the pitch.

Here is is full retirement statement:

It has been an amazing journey but I feel now is the right time to step aside for the next generation to enjoy the experiences I am so humbled to have been part of.

We have just passed the 20th anniversary of the Ireland Under 16s winning the UEFA European Championships in Scotland and it is fitting that the current U17 squad are now competing on the same stage. I still look back at that particular triumph as the real starting point for my international career. I'm sure the young lads making up Colin O'Brien's squad will be loving every minute of the tournament; just like I did under Brian Kerr and the late Noel O'Reilly.

I always wanted to play as much as I could at senior level and to now have 117 caps has truly been an honour.

There have been many highlights, such as leading Ireland out as captain, featuring at two UEFA European Championships, and getting to share a pitch alongside so many committed and talented players over the years.

It is a similar sentiment with regard to my managers at international level – Mick McCarthy, Brian Kerr, Steve Staunton, Don Givens, Giovanni Trapattoni, Noel King, and Martin O'Neill, they placed their trust in me and I hope that I paid them back in a small way by always giving everything on the pitch.

I would also like to acknowledge the support I have always received from Sunderland and, prior to that, Manchester United, in particular, Sir Alex Ferguson who is in my thoughts at the moment - get well soon Boss!

I've never taken anything in life for granted and the passing in the last year of my Dad, Jim, and my friend & team-mate Liam Miller has shown me that every moment in life (not just football) should be cherished.

I have certainly cherished my international career, it will be emotional walking out for the final time in front of the Ireland supporters. But it is now time to say thank you and allow others to lead the team forward, it’s been an amazing honour to wear our green shirt.

I would like to thank my family especially, my Mam, Mary, and brother Alan, who have given me nothing but support over the years, my friends, my underage coaches, especially at Ferrybank and Bohemians (Waterford), my schools Ferrybank BNS and De La Salle college, my team-mates, every staff member who has helped me through the years, my managers, and, most importantly, the Ireland supporters – it was always a real privilege to play in front of you!

To my wife, Yvonne, I thank you for your constant support, and to my kids, Alfie and Ruby, we can look forward to watching Ireland games together as supporters.

John O'Shea

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