Pub talk after Ireland football internationals often runs in three stages, the first is to dissect the match you have just witnessed and to speculate on what the three wise men of Giles, Brady and Dunphy had to say about the game.
Following a number of drinks, the conversation moves on to stage two, nostalgia and ‘the good ‘ol days’ come to the fore, tales of Italia ’90 and other World Cup successes usually dominate this section and how today’s team just isn’t as good.
Finally we reach stage three, this is when the intoxication levels are increasing and conversation gets more pointless, football trivia gets bandied about.
This is the story of a pen and a beer mat in the depths of stage three. While my friends and I chatted to other fans, stage three’s task was to name an Ireland XI whose surname all begins with the letter K. And so here it is, probably the most pointless Irish XI ever formulated on a night out.
Goalkeeper: Alan Kelly Jr. (1993 – 2001) Caps: 34 Goals: 0
The goalkeeper proved a contentious issue as there have been six players beginning with the letter ‘K’ that have donned the number one shirt for Ireland, including the likes of Paddy Kenny and Dean Kiely who both have vast Premier League experience. However, the debate centres around Alan Kelly Sr. and his son Alan Kelly Jr.
We selected the latter due to playing in a more successful side. Kelly was second choice at the 1994 and 2002 World Cups but held the number one shirt for a long period in between and featured heavily in the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 campaigns, which ended in play off heartache. He was eventually usurped from the number one shirt by the legendary Shay Given following a players vote.
Right Back: Gary Kelly (1994 – 2002) Caps: 52 Goals:2
The fullbacks proved tricky to pick but Gary Kelly nailed down the right back spot. Kelly appeared in the 1994 World Cup playing in the scoreless draw with Norway in the group stages while also appearing in the 2-0 defeat to the Netherlands in the round of 16.
Kelly also started all the games in Ireland’s 2002 campaign although, three appearances at that tournament came at right midfield as Steve Finnan played right back. Kelly who spent his entire professional career at Leeds United scored twice for Ireland including one against Cyprus in a World Cup qualifier clash in 2001.
Left Back: Stephen Kelly (2006 – Present) Caps: 38 Goals: 0
Left back proved a problematic position due to other positional headaches so Stephen Kelly was picked to play at left back even though being a predominantly a right back but he has played several times at left back for his country. Kelly’s debut came in 2006 against Chile while he recently played in the disappointing American tour which featured the 5-1 mauling at the hands of Portugal.
He also was in Ireland’s squad at Euro 2012 although he didn’t see any action in Ireland’s three games. Kelly will be hoping to add to his caps in the forthcoming Euro 2016 campaign but his best chance looks to be at left back due to the emergence of Seamus Coleman. He also will be in search of his first international goal.
Centre Back: Joe Kinnear (1965 – 1973) Caps: 26 Goals: 0
Although now famous for his comedic performance as the outspoken Newcastle Director of Football who tried to sign a player he already owned, Kinnear had a distinguished playing career making 196 appearances for Tottenham where he won the FA Cup and UEFA Cup once while also winning two league cups.
Kinnear’s debut in a green shirt came against Turkey in 1965 in a 2-1 defeat. Kinnear like many Irish greats never appeared at a major tournament while his last cap came in 1973. He only ever scored three career goals and none of these were for Ireland.
Centre Back: Alan Kernaghan (1992 – 1996) Caps: 22 Goals: 1
Kernaghan was raised in Northern Ireland and represented them at schoolboy level but was never allowed play at senior level due to the IFA’s policy of not picking players whose parents were not born in Northern Ireland. However, he did qualify for the Republic due to his grandmother who was Irish.
Kernaghan made his debut under Jack Charlton while he scored one goal in the qualifying campaign for the 1994 World Cup. That goal came against Lithuania at Lansdowne Road in a 2-0 win, the other goal was scored by John Aldridge. He was part of the squad at the 1994 World Cup but he didn’t make any appearance at the tournament.
Centre Midfield: Roy Keane (1991 – 2005) Caps: 67 Goals: 9
Perhaps our most famous footballer of all time, this man needs no introduction. He made his debut in 1991. Keane had many run-ins with Jack Charlton due to the style of play but also Keane’s lifestyle proved problematic. Keane and Steve Staunton were berated for breaking curfew on a drinking session during a tour of the US.
Despite this Keane played every minute of Ireland’s World Cup campaign in 1994 in the US in which he was Ireland’s player of the tournament. Keane was at his influential best as he captained Ireland in the campaign to qualify for the 2002 World Cup. Ireland went undefeated in a group that included the Netherlands and Portugal.
He scored against Portugal at home while his crunching tackle on Marc Overmars against the Netherlands at Lansdowne Road is an iconic moment. Of course the Saipan incident put an end to his hopes of playing in the World Cup and divided a nation. Although he did come back to play for Ireland years later, his best days were behind him. He will always be remembered as an Irish great.
Centre Midfield: Mark Kinsella (1998 – 2004) Caps: 48 Goals: 3
Roy Keane’s lesser known partner in the midfield enjoyed a stellar Irish career in his own right. He made his debut in 1998 and was Ireland’s Player of the Year in 2000. He also captained his country in a friendly against Finland in 2000. Kinsella formed an impressive partnership with Roy Keane in the qualifying campaign for the 2002 World Cup.
He also scored two goals in this campaign, the first came against Estonia in a 2-0 win in Dublin while the second also came at Lansdowne Road in a 3-1 over Andorra. He started all four of Ireland’s games at the 2002 World Cup alongside Matt Holland. His final appearance for Ireland came in 2004.
Right Midfield: Andy Keogh (2007 – Present) Caps: 30 Goals: 2
This was another area where a makeshift player was needed. Despite being more known as a forward, many of Keogh’s Ireland caps came on both flanks of the Irish midfield. His debut came under Steve Staunton in a tour of the US in 2007 against Ecuador in Giants Stadium in New Jersey.
He scored twice for Ireland and both goals came in two of Giovanni Trapattoni’s most significant games in charge of Ireland. The first was in Trap’s first game in charge of Ireland against Serbia in a 1-1 draw in Croke Park. His second came against Germany in the humiliating 6-1 defeat in the Aviva Stadium in a World Cup qualifier in 2012. His last appearance came in August 2013 against Wales. He has yet to feature under Martin O’Neill and this trend looks set to continue as he is currently playing for Perth Glory in the A-League.
Left Midfield: Kevin Kilbane (1997 – 2011) Caps: 110 Goals 8
The man affectionately known as Zinedine Kilbane by the Irish fans was a mainstay of the Irish team for nearly 15 years. He made his debut against Iceland in a World Cup qualifier in 1997. He starred in the qualifying campaign for the 2002 World Cup scoring twice, one each in the home and away ties against Andorra.
He also featured in every minute in the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea. In Ireland’s second round clash, which went to penalties, he missed Ireland’s fourth penalty following earlier misses from Matt Holland and David Connolly as Ireland exited the tournament.
He later moved to left back where he would remain for the remainder of his Ireland career. He played most of Ireland’s qualifying campaign for Euro 2012 scoring again against Andorra. However injury curtailed his career and he missed out on the Euro 2012 finals. Kilbane played in 66 consecutive matches for Ireland, which was only four short of Billy Wright’s world record.
Forward: David Kelly (1987 – 1997) Caps: 26 Goals: 9
Kelly was another Ireland international who was born in England but again due to Irish ancestry he declared for the Republic. Kelly’s debut for Ireland came in a friendly international against Israel in November of 1987 in which he scored a hat-trick in a 5-0 win.
His hat-trick goal came from the penalty spot in the 71st minute. He was selected in the squads for Euro ’88 and World Cup ’90 although he appeared at neither. He finally made his first appearance at a major championship in the 1994 World Cup coming off the bench in Ireland’s third game, a scoreless draw with Norway in what proved to be his only appearance at a major championship. He also scored Ireland’s goal in the infamous abandoned friendly with England at Lansdowne Road in 1995.
Forward: Robbie Keane (1998 – Present) Caps: 133 Goals: 62
One of Ireland’s greatest ever players and our greatest striker ever. His 62 international goals is the most of anyone in the UK or Ireland. That puts him 16th on the all time World list alongside the Brazilian Ronaldo although he will hope to move up the list before he hangs up his boots.
He won the Under 18 UEFA European Championship in 1998 before making his senior debut in the same year against the Czech Republic scoring his first senior goal against Malta later that year. He scored three times at the 2002 World Cup. He scored against Germany, Saudi Arabia and a penalty against Spain.
He also scored in the penalty shoot out in that game. He broke Niall Quinn’s Irish scoring record in 2004 against the Faroe Islands as he scored the record breaking 22nd and 23rd goals.
Keane became captain in 2006 under Steve Staunton and has held the role since. He scored seven goals as Ireland qualified for Euro 2012 including two in the play off against Estonia. His latest Irish goal came against Latvia in November last year in Martin O’Neill’s first game in charge. Currently at LA Galaxy, Keane hopes to steer Ireland to qualification for Euro 2016.
Peadar Breathnach, Pundit Arena.