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The Obscure Irish XI: A Team Of Cult Heroes

The Republic of Ireland senior football team has enjoyed (and endured) a storied past. From the high points of Italia ’90 to the embarrassment of Euro 2012, there have been many ups and downs. Central to this fluctuating past was the ’emergence’ of certain obscurities. Names like Lapira,  Branagan and O’Cearuill left lasting impressions. The PA Team decided to sit down and create a team full of Ireland’s ‘unsung heroes’. We give you, ‘The Obscure Irish XI’.


GK: Keith Branagan

Apps: 1 Goals: 0           

In at number one we have Keith Branagan. He spent his most consistent playing days with Bolton Wanderers between 1992 and 2000; amassing 214 appearances. He also played with Cambridge United and Millwall in his time.

Whilst at Millwall he was loaned out to Brentford and Gillingham before making it to the big time with Bolton Wanderers; subsequently finishing out his career with three appearances for Ipswich Town.

His one and only day in the limelight for Ireland came in 1997 as he lined out for the Boys In Green in a 0-0 draw against Wales in the same season he won the First Division with Bolton.

According to Wikipedia, Branagan now has a UEFA ‘A’ licence and has also coached goalkeepers at Crewe and Stockport.

Honourable Mention: Nick Colgan – (Apps: 10, Goals: 0)

Our honourable mention goes to a player that you will no doubt recognise; just.

This is where Colgan comes to the fore. Although he has nine more appearances than Branagan we feel he is our honourable man this time out due to his journeyman status. A massive 15 clubs in his time, starting off at Drogheda United. He then played for several clubs across England and Scotland before hanging up his gloves at Huddersfield Town.

Unfortunately, at a time when Shay Given was a world class keeper, Colgan only managed to play in 10 games. He is now the goalkeeping coach at Huddersfield.


DF: Alan Maybury

Apps: 10 Goals: 0

Another player to play for clubs in both Scotland and England, Maybury is our first full back. Never really settling anywhere he went, Maybury had his most prolific time as a defender at Hearts in Scotland. There he managed 112 appearances between 2001 and 2005 while scoring four goals. Not too bad for a full back.

It was at Hearts that Maybury received the majority of his caps although he did earn a few whilst at Leeds too.

Maybury is now a player-coach at falkirk. Who knows if he may return sometime. Although at 35 it doesn’t look likely.

Here he is giving away a foul that would make Gary Doherty proud.

Honourable Mention: Pat Scully (Apps:  1, Goals: 0)

Our back up at full back is Pat Scully. He started his career as a youth player at Arsenal where he earned his one and only cap for Ireland before being loaned out and playing with clubs like Preston North End and Northampton Town.

Scully made his way back to Shelbourne in 1996 and had a successful career in Ireland with Shamrock Rovers and Drogheda. He managed Limerick until 2012.

Scully is now the PFAI squad manager.


DF: Joe O’Cearuill

Apps: Goals: 0

At centre back we have a man you should all know only too well from his international days as his name is quite unforgettable. Sounding like an extra from an American sitcom about leprechauns,  O’Cearuill lined out for Barnet.

O’Cearuill has a long list of lesser known clubs like Forest Green Rovers and Boreham Wood but it is the early part of his career that pointed to him being a part of more star-studded teams than this.

Starting off at Arsenal, things looked promising for a young O’Cearuill but his two appearances will likely be forgotten.

O’Cearuill joined Enfield Town in 2013 where is believed to still be plying his trade at 27 years young. At that age we might yet see Joe back playing with the Boys In Green. Who knows?

Although not known as a goalscorer, O’Cearuill’s career highlight came during a game of Football Manager where he struck the back of the net from distance. Talent!

Honourable Mention: Stephen O’Halloran (Apps: 2, Goals: 0)

Two appearances is all the Cork man could muster. Part of the Steve Staunton era; O’Halloran played in friendlies for Ireland despite not actually playing any games for his club Aston Villa.

He joined Stockport in June 2013 and is still playing at the age of 26 with little chance of ever returning to the Ireland fold.


DF: Clive Clark

Apps: 2 Goals: 0

Clive Clark won two caps for Ireland in friendlies against Jamaica and Nigeria back in 2004. He had joined Stoke City’s academy in 1996 and broke into the first team in 1999.  He remained with Stoke until 2005 helping them gain promotion to the First Division through the play-offs in 2002.

Afterwards he spent time at West Ham and Sunderland where he struggled to make any impact, with his first team appearances being restricted. While on loan at Leicester City from Sunderland he suffered life threatening cardiac arrest in a League Cup tie against Nottingham Forest, an event which ultimately finished his career at the ripe age of 27.

Honourable Mention: Liam Daish (Apps: 5 Goals; 0)

Daish was an uncompromising centre-half whose club career reached its peak during a two-year spell at Birmingham City in the mid 90’s. He won five caps for Ireland between 1992 and 1996.

He moved to Coventry City in 1996 for £1.5million but failed to establish himself in the side due to injuries. These injuries ultimately forced him to retire in 1999.

One of his more memorable moments occurred when he was a victim of humourless refereeing. He was booked for playing a toy trumpet a fan threw on the pitch during a goal celebration for Birmingham City, which resulted in a three match ban.

He managed several lower league clubs post retirement, most notably at the lofty heights of Ebbsfleet United.

There are no videos of the incident, but we imagine it went something like this:


MF:  Gareth Farrelly 

(Apps: 6 Goals: 0)

Farrelly will be forever remembered by Everton fans as the man who saved them from relegation on goal difference in the final match of the 97/98 season with an epic goal against Coventry.

Farrelly also enjoyed a good spell with Bolton Wanderers from 1999-2004.  He finished up his career back home in the League of Ireland, putting in stints with Bohemians and Cork City.

His time back in Ireland was blighted by legal troubles. Firstly there was a case against FIFA relating to registration followed by an unfair dismissal case against Bohs.  This gave him the taste for a legal career, which he is now studying for.

Honourable Mention: Thomas Butler (Apps: 2, Goals: 0)

Butler was seen as an exciting prospect that  never fully delivered on his potential. He was called up by Mick McCarthy and received two caps in 2002 despite limited club appearances.  The happiest days of his club career were with Cardiff City from 2006-2012. He was at Swansea when they got promoted to the Premier League, but rarely featured.


MF: Darren Potter

Apps: 5  Goals: 0

The Liverpool born midfielder was tipped for big things at Anfield (because no Liverpool player ever gets hyped up) and came through the Liverpool youth system. He even played for the club in the Champions League. Potter was in fact part of a Champions League winning Liverpool squad, but did not manage to replicate Manchester United’s Jonathan Greening in making the final match-day squad.

He mainly played in the secondary cup competitions before moving on to Southampton on loan. He was sold to Wolverhampton Wanderers from Liverpool. From there he moved onto Sheffield Wednesday and is still currently playing with Milton Keynes Dons.

He is a full Irish international receiving his first cap in 2007 against Ecuador as part of Staunton’s famous squad. He went onto win four more caps with Ireland but has not featured for the Boys in Green since 2008.

Honourable Mention – Alan Mahon (Apps; 2 – Goals; 0)

Mahon is now a retired player who received two Irish caps in the year 2000 against Greece and South Africa under Mick McCarthy. He is a Dublin native who spent the most part of his career at Tranmere Rovers, playing in their run to the League Cup final in 2000.

He played Champions League football in Portugal Sporting Clube de Portugal. His colossal efforts at the back meant they lost by just four goals to Real Madrid. He then swapped the beauty of the Champions League to finish his career at a variety of lower league English clubs.

Here’s a video of Mahon scoring for his beloved Burnley (the last goal), while one of Ireland’s greatest internationals, Gary Doherty, showcases his rugby skills.


MF: Jonathan Douglas 

Apps: 8 Goals: 0

Douglas may be one of the better known players in this selection and with eight Irish caps he can count himself very lucky to be considered as an obscure Irish player. The Monaghan man started off his career at Monaghan United before making the move cross channel to Blackburn Rovers. Injuries were a problem at Blackburn and as a result his number of performances were hampered.

He did have a run in the side and scored his only goal in an epic 4-3 encounter against Fulham. He was on Blackburn’s books until 2005 but this included various loan spells. He joined the downward spiral that is Leeds where he played over a hundred games. He moved to another lower league/former Premiership club in Swindon and now currently plays with Brentford.

He featured for Ireland under Brian Kerr and Steve Staunton. He made his debut in 2004, before making his competitive debut under Staunton in 2006.

Here’s Douglas proving that he should have been playing in the Jack Charlton era with a classic header.

Honourable mention – Liam O’Brien (Apps; 16 – Goals; 0)

This is a name that some may remember following his mention. One would think that any Irish player who played regularly for Manchester United and Newcastle United would be easily remembered; not Liam O’Brien. He has sixteen Ireland caps but these were spread over ten years.

His career in England ended at Tranmere Rovers and after this O’Brien returned to Ireland to finish out his career with spells at Cork City and Bohemians.

As O’Brien shows with this free kick, form is temporary, class is permanent.


MF: Ronnie O’Brien 

Apps: 0  Goals: 0

Ronnie O’Brien. Where to start? If you’re surprised at the thought of not knowing an Irish man who played with Manchester United and Newcastle, well what about an Irish man who signed a five-year deal with Juventus? Yes, that Juventus.

O’Brien hailed from Bray in Co. Wicklow and played most of his football in the MLS. He signed for Middlesbrough at eighteen and was part of the Irish side that won the European under-16 championship in 1998.

Amazingly, O’Brien signed for Juventus in 1999 having been released by Middlesbrough. Unsurprisingly, this move to Turin was unsuccessful and O’Brien had a series of loan spells before moving to the USA in 2002.

He began his career in the MLS with FC Dallas and went on to have spells at Toronto FC and San Jose Earthquakes. O’Brien was never officially capped at senior level, but did receive a call up under the illustrious Steve Staunton era. Not many Irish players can claim to have played with Juventus, and for this reason we bent the rules to get O’Brien into our side.

Here’s O’Brien sending shockwaves through the MLS with two wonder goals for the San Jose Earthquakes.

Honourable Mention – Martin Rowlands (Apps; 5 – Goals; 0)

Martin Rowlands has five Ireland caps spread out over 2004-2009. he spent his whole career in the lower leagues of English football and had his most successful stints at Brentford and Queens Park Rangers. He played two games under Brian Kerr in 2004.

His good form at QPR earned a recall under Giovanni Trapattoni. He featured in the 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign but a cruciate knee ligament injury sustained with Ireland halted his progress. He moved down the leagues following this injury and the latest showcase of his international talent was seen in the Conference with Aldershot.

Here’s Rowlands showing Martin O’Neill what he’s missing out on.


ST: Joe Lapira (Captain) 

Apps: 1 Goals: 0

Joe Lapira a.k.a. ‘The Pony-Tailed Poacher’ will go down in history as one of the most obscure players to line out for the  Boys In Green. An Obscure XI wouldn’t be complete without the New Yorker wearing the captain’s armband, or hairband in this case.

Lapira was born to an Irish mother and came to the attention of Steve Staunton while playing for Notre Dame University. Staunton decided to call the  20-year-old into his squad for the US Tour, with Lapira earning his solitary cap in a 1-1 draw against Ecuador. Lapira was the leading clown in the infamous circus that travelled America under Staunton’s watch in 2007.

Lapira committed a cardinal sin in the eyes of many Irish fans when he trialled at Rangers, but the Ibrox Club refused his services after he broke down with a calf injury in his first training session. An unsuccessful trial with Aberdeen followed, but Lapira eventually ended up in Norway’s second tier with Nybergsund IL-Trysil.

Attempts to contact Lapira were unsuccessful, but we still hope for a day when the mighty ponytail emerges from the international wilderness.

Here’s Lapira scoring a Marco van Basten-esque effort….on Football Manager:

Honourable Mention – Richie Sadlier (Apps: 1 Goals: 0)

Sadlier used to do his talking with a football prior to making the move to RTE. A promising striker, big things were expected of the ex-Millwall player. He made his full debut for the Republic as a substitute against Russia in 2002 and was expected to be named in Mick McCarthy’s World Cup squad. However, a hip injury sadly put an end to his career. Sadlier now resides at RTÉ studios, where himself, Pat Dolan and Eamon Dunphy tell bedtime stories and frolick around the gardens of Donnybrook.

Here’s Sadlier having it out with Liam Brady on the RTÉ panel:


ST: Jon Macken

Apps: Goals: 0

If there was ever a footballer that epitomised the word ‘journeyman’ it is undoubtedly Jon Macken. A free scoring career saw the striker spend time at Manchester United, Preston North End, Manchester City, Crystal Palace, Derby County, Barnsley, Walsall, Northwich Victoria (who?) and Stockport County.

His career highlights include a twenty-five goal season at Preston that saw David Moyes’ side win the second division title, a screamer from the halfway line against Man City and an FA Cup goal for Man City against Spurs.

Macken moved to the Manchester club for £5 million in 2002, but would only make 27 starts in three years. Macken’s movements did not go unnoticed and despite turning out for England U-20s earlier in his career, Macken donned the famous green jersey in 2004 when he replaced Clinton Morrison in a 1-1 home draw with Bulgaria. A masterstroke from Brian Kerr.

Sadly, this was to be Macken’s one and only game for Ireland. Macken is currently a free agent following his release from Stockport. Rumours are that himself and Joe Lapira are looking to set up a MLS club to compete with David Beckham’s Miami side.

Honourable Mention – Glen Crowe (Apps 2, Goals 0)

Glen Crowe is a legend of the domestic game. The man scores goals for fun. At the peak of his career, Crowe scored 180 goals  in 110 appearances for Bohemians. His performances were so prolific that rumours of Crowe becoming the League of Ireland’s first million-pound man began to circulate, with Chelsea the presumed destination.

Alas, the move never came to fruition and Crowe currently plays for St. Mochta’s in the Leinster Senior League.

Crowe earned two caps for the Republic during his career, after Don Givens called him up for the friendly internationals against Greece and Norway in 2002-03.

Crowe couldn’t contain himself when he finally got on the big screen:


ST: Terry Dixon

Apps: Called up as a sixteen-year-old. Goals: n/a

Another member of the infamous Steve Staunton circus, Dixon was called up to the team as a sixteen-year-old in 2006. Staunton had high hopes for the ‘Irish Wayne Rooney’,

“I just felt he has got a special talent. He is very confident on the ball and he knows where the goal is. There’s not too many of them around.”

Known as ‘The Great White Hope’, a lot was expected of Terry Dixon. The young striker was marked as the star to lift Ireland from the footballing doldrums and lead the country to new heights. Unfortunately, the former Spurs hotshot succumbed to a number of knee injuries and never fulfilled his potential.

His first serious knee injury was at fourteen while at Spurs, before enduring his second at seventeen, ultimately leading to his departure. Stints at West Ham and Stevenage followed, before making the move to the illustrious Isthmian League Division One Club, Ware. Further stints at a number of English league clubs followed and Dixon currently plays for Dunstable Town on a part-time basis.

Honourable Mention: Cillian Sheridan (Apps 3, Goals 0)

A lot of people will remember Cillian Sheridan for his goalscoring exploits throughout his career. The striker takes his place as an honourable mention on the Obscure XI due to the obscure nature of the clubs he has played for. A hotshot with the books, Sheridan started his career with Celtic while studying for a diploma in Applied Osmography. Perhaps he would have been better of studying geography considering his career included periods at Motherwell, Plymouth, St. Johnstone, CSKA Sofia, Kilmarnock and APOEL in Cyprus.

Sheridan made three appearances for the Republic of Ireland senior side, starting in 2010. At just twenty-five years of age and lining out for one of Cyprus’ premier sides, the door for a return remains open.

Here’s a typical striker’s finish from Sheridan:


Manager: Noel King

No description needed, King gets the job purely because of this obscure outburst.

Did we forget anyone? Let us know by commenting or tweeting @PunditArena.


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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.