Monday 18 February 2019

Whatever happened to Kerr's likely lads of 1998?

Ruth O'Brien

THEY were the team that gave the phrase 'young, gifted and green' street cred, the side that elevated Brian Kerr's status ever higher - they were the Irish U-16's of 1998 who conquered Europe.

Here we take a look at what the squad members have done since that famous night of May 8 when Ireland defeated the mighty Italians in the UEFA Championship final at McDiarmid Park in Perth, home of Scottish Premier League club St Johnstone.

Sixteen of the 18-man squad have played first team football with their clubs and three of them - Keith Foy, Joe Murphy and Brian O'Callaghan - are holding down regular first team places at Nottingham Forest, Tranmere Rovers and Barnsley respectively.

One member of the squad, sub goalkeeper David Madden, is no longer playing soccer. He is showing his talent as a GAA player with Nemo Rangers in Cork.

Brian Kerr, the team manager, is optimistic that most of the squad members can make a living in professional football: "Their progress shows how special they were as a team. Winning the European Championship gave them the confidence to go on and make a breakthrough at their clubs. Even the fringe players of the squad have shown real ability and have also played first team football."

Joe Murphy (Tranmere)

PERHAPS the most successful member of the squad, he burst into Tranmere's first team last season and held down a regular first team place at Prenton Park. Murphy became the youngest goalkeeper to play at Wembley in a major final when he kept goal for Tranmere against Leicester in the Worthington Cup Final of 1999.

"It was a brilliant experience for me. I was only back from injury two weeks and I really only aimed to make the bench."

Speculation ran rife after Murphy's heroic displays in goal and he was linked with a move away from Prenton Park. Liverpool were said to be chasing the teenage star.

Murphy has progressed to U-21 international level and is pushing Dean Delaney all the way for the No 1 shirt.

David Madden (Nemo Rangers)

AS the replacement goalkeeper he was the only member of the squad who did not get a run out during the finals in Scotland.

Madden had trials with Celtic and played with them in the Milk Cup. Sheffield Wednesday also showed an interest in the young Cork lad.

"I was unlucky," he says. "On both occasions I ended up with injuries. I could not make the trials at Wednesday, while Celtic opted to bring in more experienced 'keepers."

Recently, Madden decided to concentrate on his GAA career with his local club Nemo Rangers: "I am doing well at Nemo so far. I won both the minor final and the U-17 final with the club."

John Thompson (Nottm F)

HE played a crucial part in the keeping of five clean sheets up to the final in Perth. A product of the Brenfer League, he was the second member of the squad to have started out with the Rivervalley Rangers club.

Since his appearances in Scotland, he has become a member of the Irish contingent at Nottingham Forest. He is still playing U-19 level as well as being included in the reserves.

As far as first team opportunities are concerned, Thompson is keeping his fingers crossed and is hoping to make that elusive breakthrough this season.

Keith Foy (Nottm Forest)

WHO will ever forget that free-kick in the final? Since then Foy has made more than a good impression at Forest and made his first team debut against Grimbsy earlier this season.

He said: "It came totally out of the blue. I was hoping to make the breakthrough nearer the end of the season, so as you can imagine it was a welcome surprise."

The youngster took the place of Canadian-born Jim Brennan at left-back and played five games on the trot for the First Division outfit. He is certainly holding his own at the City Ground and scored a wonder goal for Forest in late November against Tranmere, beating international team-mate Joe Murphy with an inch perfect lob.

Ian Rossiter (Sligo Rovers)

ROSSITER only made one appearance at the finals, playing the first half of the group game against Finland.

At the time, he was then playing his club football for Galway United, but he has since moved home to play for his local club Sligo Rovers. "I spent two years away from home at Galway, so it was nice to come back to Sligo," he said. "I felt I did as much as I could at Galway and I am enjoying my football here at Sligo."

Jim Goodwin (Celtic)

GRITTY Goodwin took the responsibility for marshalling the defence in Scotland.

He made his first team debut for Celtic on the final day of last season: "It was a fantastic experience but I did work hard for the opportunity. I hope to make another first team appearance towards the end of this season too, if we are in a comfortable position that is.

The lad from Tramore is currently playing reserve football and is enjoying a rich vein of form with Celtic in second position in the reserve league.

John O'Shea (Man Utd)

O'SHEA decided to stay at home with Waterford Bohemians in order to complete his Leaving Cert at De La Salle College before setting sail for Manchester. "I decided to stay at home because a lot of young lads leave home too early and they find it hard to settle in. I was that bit older, a bit more mature."

He has made three appearances for United's first team, all of them in the Worthington Cup. Last season he started against Aston Villa and this season he played the 90 minutes against Watford and Sunderland.

Last season, O'Shea was sent on a loan spell with Bournemouth. "It was good to get the experience of playing in a first team, it toughened me up a lot, playing against all the big men of Division Two."

He made the bench for Mick McCarthy's senior team for November's friendly with Finland and is expected to go on loan to Belgium's Royal Antwerp in the New Year.

Brian O'Callaghan (Barnsley)

THE choice of two centre halves from three was one of the toughest decisions Brian Kerr and Noel O'Reilly had when this squad assembled for the championships. It's not easy when the centre back partnership gels so well early on and it took until the closing stages of the semi-final against Portugal for him to get a run.

Another success story from the squad, the Limerick lad left his local side Pike Rovers and signed for Barnsley.

This season he has managed to hold down a regular place in the first team at Oakwell. "During pre-season we had a few injury problems and I was drafted into the squad. It has all taken off from there."

John Douglas (Blackburn)

A LATE call-up to the squad for the Scotland campaign. He made his appearance against Denmark in the quarter-final, coming on as a sub for David McMahon in the closing stages.

Then a Monaghan regular, he had trials for Celtic and that is where Blackburn first spotted the youngster. "I was playing a game for Celtic against Blackburn and after the game the Blackburn coach approached me about trials at the club. I liked the set-up here at Blackburn and decided to take them up on their offer."

He made his first team debut in front of the Sky Sport's cameras in a Worthington Cup clash against West Ham at Upton Park.

Kevin Grogan (UCD)

MADE three appearances at the tournament, one start and two substitute appearances.

The former Seagrange player has been haunted by injury in recent times. He suffered from Osgut Slatter's disease which occurs when the growth of bones does not keep up with the development of muscles.

At present, Grogan is on a year's loan spell at UCD where he is on a soccer scholarship.

He feels a year in the Eircom League will be of benefit. "Here I am playing first team football, while at Manchester United I was only playing youth team football. It is giving me confidence and improving the defensive part of my game."

Liam Miller (Celtic)

PLAYED every game in Scotland in the holding midfield role, snapping and dogging the opposition as well as finding time to get forward.

He made his first team debut for Celtic on the final day of last season along with U-16 international team-mate Jim Goodwin. "It was a brilliant feeling because it came totally unexpected. I had only just returned from a three month injury lay-off."

Presently he is recovering from a hamstring injury, but is hoping Celtic's lead at the top will benefit some of the young players at the club. "I hope we widen the gap even further because then the manager will be more likely to throw in some of the youngsters."

Shaun Byrne (captain) (West Ham)

WILL be forever remembered as the first Irishman to raise a UEFA trophy, and also for his three vital goals.

He has been at West Ham since he was just eight years old. Last season Harry Redknapp sent him on a month's loan to Bristol Rovers: "It really helped me. I got the experience of playing first team football and it also helped me physically."

Since returning to Upton Park, lady luck has not been shining. "I made my league debut last season against Newcastle, then I tore my cartilage and had to go under the knife."

His main priority now fitness. Since returning from injury, he has played six reserve games.

David Warren (Wrexham)

THIS Cork lad made three appearances as a substitute at the finals. He is known for his tough-tackling and tireless work-rate. Kerr preferred to spring him from the bench.

Then a player for his local side, Mayfield, he learned of Wrexham's interest in him after the tournament: "They took me on trials and they must have liked what they saw as they signed me straight away."

Warren has been making steady progress at the Racecourse Ground. "I am doing well. I have played once for the first team and I have also made the bench on occasions."

Des Byrne (Wimbledon)

AFTER his much publicized antics at Stockport County, Byrne has since got his career firmly back on track.

Pat Dolan rescued him from football obscurity when he signed him for St Pat's Athletic.

"I owe Pat Dolan a lot. Not only did he help me with my football but also with my attitude. The Eircom League really toughened me up."

After a successful season with the Richmond Park outfit, Byrne began to attract attention from across the water. At the beginning of this season Terry Burton took the young Ballyfermot lad to Wimbledon on a three-year contract.

Brendan McGill (Sunderland)

WAS already a Sunderland player in 1998, but the level-headed youngster opted to stay with Rivervalley and complete his Leaving Cert before leaving for England. The right-winger greatly improved his reputation with six startling performances in Scotland.

Since then, McGill has made an impact at Sunderland and made his first team debut in this season's Worthington Cup.

Andy Reid (Nottm Forest)

A LIGHTNING fast left-sided raider who has skill to burn. Little Reid was the baby of the team in Scotland at just 15 and the man who set up David McMahon for the winning goal in the final.

Another member of the of the Irish gang at Nottingham Forest, Reid is still playing at U-19 level and in the reserves. He made his first team debut against Sheffield United at the City Ground in late November and marked the occasion by scoring in a 2-0 win. He played at U-18 level for Brian Kerr this year.

Graham Barrett (Arsenal)

WAS a vital player in Scotland. His semi-final display against Portugal was one that will not be forgotten - he was simply breath-taking that night in McDiarmid Park.

He is making steady progress at Highbury and started his first senior game for the Gunners this season when he played the full 90 minutes against Ipswich in the Worthington Cup.

With Arsenal having so many options up front, Barrett does not see many first team opportunities in the league this season: "I definitely can't see that happening soon, I'm a long way down the pecking order," admits Barrett who is currently on loan to Division Two side Bristol Rovers.

David McMahon (Newcastle)

SCORER of the winning goal in the final. This season, the 6' 2" striker spent a month on loan with Scottish side Falkirk and is currently on loan to Division Three strugglers Darlington.

Now that the lad from Finglas is at Newcastle, he is keeping his fingers crossed for a chance to shine in the first team. "Newcastle are a good club for giving youth a chance. I have to be patient and my time will come. I have only returned from injury and to get noticed for the first team I'll have shine in the reserve team and also score some goals."

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