Thursday 14 December 2017

Where are they now? - The 18 Irish footballers with World Cup medals from Malaysia in 1997

Brian Kerr led Ireland to a third place finish at the 1997 Youth World cup in Malaysia
Brian Kerr led Ireland to a third place finish at the 1997 Youth World cup in Malaysia
David Kelly

David Kelly

Just 18 Irish players have World Cup medals. Brian Kerr's squad from the 1997 World Youth Championships in Malaysia that won bronze. Find out where they are now?

Goalkeepers

Derek O’Connor (Huddersfield): Popular Dubliner had drifted out of football less than five years later. Began work as a landscape gardener which he has continued on return to Dublin.

Paul Whelan (Oxford): Both goalies were Crumlin boys; Whelan from Lourdes Celtic rather than Crumlin United. Soon released and returned to play in League of Ireland.

Defenders

David Worrell (Blackburn): Ever-present centre-back played his best football for Plymouth but Rush native’s career cut short by cancer treatment. Now works in Dublin finance industry.

Colin Hawkins (Coventry): Ron Atkinson confessed to me once that he made a mistake letting the Galway “hawkeye” go; one of the Three Amigos (with Molloy and Morgan), enjoyed a glittering domestic career. Now director of football at St Mochta’s FC in West Dublin.

Robbie Ryan (Huddersfield): One of two Belvedere players then with the Yorkshire club, Ryan played more than 200 times for Millwall including an FA Cup final where he marked Ronaldo. Now an electrician on London Underground.

Michael Cummins (Middlesbrough): Versatile Tallaght man who scored twice from right-back but could also play in the middle; thrived in lower leagues, half his 500 appearances coming in Port Vale colours. Now first-team coach at non-league Gateshead, in England’s north-east.

Aidan Lynch (UCD): Unused until third-placed play-off, Dubliner was one of a trio whose selection was criticised because they were “only” in the League of Ireland. Stayed there for entire highly-regarded career. Now teacher in Ballinteer.

David Whittle (QPR): Waterford defender began at right-back but ultimately eased out by impressive Cummins. Spent another two years in London before returning to domestic action with Waterford, Longford and Kilkenny. Now manager of DID Electrical in Ardkeen, Waterford.

Kerr.jpg

Midfielders

Niall Inman (Peterborough): One of only two who took advantage of the oft-ridiculed parentage rule, this son of rugby league stock defied illness to feature strongly. After a few years in non-league, retired at 26 with ankle injury before becoming a Chartered Architectural Technologist. Now a lecturer working at Cambridge Regional College in the Academy of construction.

John Burns (Notts Forest): One of a clutch of Belvedere boys –  which also produced the late, great assistant coach to manager Brian Kerr, Noel O’Reilly – his tournament was ended prematurely by injury against USA, as was his career aged 27. Never broke through at City Ground but managed a rock band called the Establishment before training as a mortgage advisor. Father died on day before reunion but urged his son to attend reunion.

Thomas Morgan (Blackburn): ‘Captain’ Morgan was the heartbeat of the team in midfield. When released by Blackburn, eschewed the ardour of lower league football and instead enjoyed domestic success with St Pats. Inner city boy and cousin of Wes Hoolahan. Now works with the FAI’s youth development in Abbotstown.

Damien Duff (Blackburn): Already a debutant in England’s top tier, Duff was the 18-year-old Ballyboden baby of the Irish side and, after winning the League Cup with Blackburn, subsequently became a double league title winner with Chelsea and won 100 caps for Ireland, scoring at the 2002 World Cup. Now a coach at Shamrock Rovers and an RTE pundit.

Alan Kirby (Aston Villa): Another Waterford native, from the Johnville club, Kirby grew into the tournament but, like so many of his colleagues, failed to break through in England despite four years in the midlands. Had a glittering League of Ireland career winning five Cup medals. Now tax assistant manager at BDO, who sponsored the reunion.

Stephen Murphy (Huddersfield): Ex-Bevlo boy’s versatility was vital throughout the tournament but didn’t help him advance with Huddersfield and he left without playing a game at Leeds Road, returning home for stints with Shelbourne and then Malahide United. Now works at Dublin Airport.

Strikers

Dessie Baker (Shelbourne): Although returned from a stint at Old Trafford, where Youth Cup winner was named 1995 player of the year, Stella Maris striker Baker played a key role in support throughout thanks to his ability to play wide too. Successful seven-year career at Shelbourne. Now lives in Portarlington, plays with Edenderry FC and is getting his coaching badges.

Neale Fenn (Spurs): The only other non-Irish born player in the squad and the only one to have already started a game in the English top tier, Fenn’s career at White Hart Lane tailed off and he made his home in the League of Ireland. Apart from being a handy Futsal player, now involved with ‘Path 2 Pro’, which helps coach young players.

Trevor Molloy (Athlone Town): Effectively without a club as the summer started, Kerr took a wizened punt on Molloy’s unpredictable skills and both were rewarded by his astonishing impact. Snapped up by St Pats and enjoyed successful career in LOI but two stints in England and Scotland failed to propel profile. Still turning out for Bluebell and has also coached non-league teams.

Glen Crowe (Wolves): Didn’t impact on this tournament as much as many predicted but would subsequently win two full Irish caps, the second under Kerr. After release by Wolves - accelerated by a certain Robbie Keane -  forged a fine career in Ireland at both Bohemians and Shelbourne, winning five league titles in all. Now a coach at his schoolboy side, St Mochta’s.

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