Ireland take on Turkey on Friday afternoon with a number of new faces in tow looking to become the latest to pull on the green jersey (or white, probably, it being an away game and all).
Aaron McCarey, Kieran O’Hara, Matt Doherty, Declan Rice, Enda Stevens, Derrick Williams, Darragh Lenihan and Scott Hogan are the uncapped players in the squad aiming to make their first appearance for the Boys in Green, as Martin O’Neill looks to shape his squad ahead of the UEFA Nations League later this year and Euro 2020 qualifiers in 2019.
Down the years there have been some very strong debuts from Ireland players and managers. Some led to great things, while others simply represented false dawns. Here are five such examples of strong openings, in no particular order:
Steve Staunton (v Sweden, 1/3/2006)
Staunton’s appointment as Ireland manager was met with a bit of caution, but his record as a player stood to him in terms of fan support for the new gaffer. His first game in charge of the Boys in Green was a friendly against Sweden in Dublin, with six months until his first match in the Euro 2008 qualification campaign.
A commanding 3-0 win with goals from Damien Duff, Robbie Keane and a screamer from the late Liam Miller gave Staunton the perfect start as Ireland boss, and optimism rose at that point that Ireland could reach the European Championships for the first time in 20 years.
What followed is a campaign that we should never speak of again. But the Sweden win was great.
Liam Brady (v Soviet Union, 30/10/74)
Don Givens may have made the headlines with a hat-trick against the Soviet Union in a European Championship qualifier at Dalymount Park, but the performance of the 18-year-old Arsenal midfielder did not go unnoticed. Even at a young age, his ball control and technique were abundant and would be the foundation of Chippy’s stellar career from then on out.
Brady would go on to win 72 caps for Ireland, scoring nine goals.
Robbie Brady (v Oman, 11/9/2012)
Ireland have played Oman so often in the last few years that certain significant Irish events have become tied up with the small Arab country (Robbie Keane’s last appearance, for example, was against Oman).
The first meeting between these two in Craven Cottage, London in 2012 was also Robbie Brady’s first senior match for Ireland. The then-Man United winger would become an Irish hero several years later, but the sign of what was to come arrived when Brady scored once and assisted two more in a comprehensive 4-1 for Giovanni Trapattoni’s men on unfamiliar territory.
Gary Kelly (v Russia, 23/3/1994)
Kelly did not play in Ireland’s World Cup 1994 qualification campaign, but so strong was his form for Leeds United in the Premier League that Jack Charlton gave him a shot, along with Bolton’s Jason McAteer, in the run-up to the tournament itself.
Kelly played the full 90 minutes in a scoreless draw with Russia at Lansdowne Road putting in a fine performance and going some way to earning a spot on the plane to the United States as a result. He would go on to win 51 caps for Ireland, scoring two goals, between 1994 and 2003.
Robbie Keane/Damien Duff (25/3/1998)
Ireland fell to a 2-1 defeat against the Czech Republic in this fixture, but it had a few positives, especially relative to the malaise caused by the side’s failure to qualify for the 1998 World Cup. Mick McCarthy recognised the need for younger blood in an ageing side, so turned to a young Blakburn winger and Wolves striker to represent the future. (They, along with Alan Maybury, Graham Kavanagh, Rory Delap and Mark Kinsella all made their senior debuts in what was a very young Ireland squad).
Duff started in Olomouc, while Keane would come on as a second half substitute. Both immediately showed flashes of youthful quality and McCarthy knew there and then that they could be trusted to lead Ireland into the Euro 200 qualifiers. That campaign ended in play-off heartbreak, but thre would be no mistake in the nation’s quest to reach the World Cup in 2002.
In all, Duff earned 100 caps between 1998 and 2002, scoring eight goals, while Keane went on to become Ireland’s record goalscorer, finding the net 68 times in 146 games before retiring in 2016.