We move past the halfway point in our countdown of the best Irish Liverpool players and head towards the business end.
Jurgen Klopp’s side, possibly with young Irish defender Conor Masterson in town, will face Napoli in a pre-season friendly in Dublin’s Aviva Stadium on August 4th, where fans will be hoping that the Reds can do the business in Kiev on Saturday and bring the trophy to Ireland’s capital.
Part one took us to the 90s, part two the 80s – and for part three, we resume the countdown with a little legend from this century.
5. Steve Finnan (2003-2008)
Solid and dependable, yet unassuming and humble, full-backs have been a big export from Ireland in the last thirty years or so, and Limerick-native Finnan was no different. Liverpool beat off strong competition to land Finnan in a £3.5m deal from Fulham in 2003, with the aim of filling a problem position for Gerard Houllier.
After a frustrating injury-hit first season at Anfield, Finnan really kicked on and established himself as a fine right-back under Rafa Benitez. The Spaniard tried as he might to dislodge the Ireland man with the likes of Josemi and Jan Krompkamp, but he always went back to Finnan’s dependency and consistency, with starting roles in the 2005 Champions League and 2006 FA Cup finals, as well as the less successful 2005 League Cup and 2007 Champions League finals.
Finnan left to join Espanyol in 2008 after over 200 appearances (and one goal) and two trophies, leaving a legacy of being arguably the best Liverpool right-back of the modern Premier League era.
4. Mark Lawrenson (1981- 1988)
Liverpool paid a then-club record fee of £900,000 to sign Lawrenson from Brighton & Hove Albion, and it proved to be money well spent. He started out as a left-back but injury to Phil Thompson gave him his chance to impress in the centre – it was a chance he took with both hands as he went on to form a formidable partnership with Alan Hansen.
He was a strong, physically able centre-half whose skill on the ball belied his frame. He was easily in the bracket of top defenders in the country at the time, if not Europe, and was a huge part of the Reds’ success at home and abroad in the 1980s.
In all, he won five First Division titles, three League Cups, one FA Cup and one European Cup in his time at Anfield, making over 350 appearances in all competitions before departing for Barnet in 1988. Although his fitness had dipped below the point where he could handle the rigours of top-level football at that time, he still left as a club legend.
3. Ronnie Whelan (1979-1994)
Whelan is rightly remembered as a Liverpool legend, having given fifteen years of his career to the side, having been brought to England from Home Farm by Bob Paisley for just £35,000 in 1979.
As was the case with many young Irish players brought over to England, Whelan had to bide his time as he looked to make an impact with the club (remembering, of course, that he was just 18 and Liverpool were First Division and European Cup challengers at the time) – and, indeed, it was 1981 before he began to force his way into the senior team.
Once he was in, though, he never let go of his place. He was crowned young player of the season in 1982 and scored twice in the League Cup final as he began to make that spot on the left flank his own. His versatility meant that he could play in a number of roles, but worked tirelessly in all of them as he amassed almost 500 appearances for Liverpool.
At the age of 32, Whelan left the Premier League outfit in 1994 to join Southend United after an injury-hit final couple of years. He could, however, look back at a stellar Anfield career that saw him win six First Division titles, two FA Cups, three League Cups and one European Cup.