I’m 28 years old so I can’t claim to have witnessed every Irishman who has pulled on the famous Liverpool shirt. In my time however I have had the great fortune to watch the great Ronnie Whelan playing for Ireland and Liverpool.
Ronnie Whelan was born in Dublin into a family of footballers. His father Ronnie Senior, also played for Ireland and had a successful career in the League of Ireland playing for St. Pats in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Ronnie’s brother Paul also played in the League of Ireland, pulling on the jerseys of Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers.
Ronnie was a talented youngster and came through the youth teams of Home Farm and made his breakthrough into the senior side at the age of 16. He may have being young but his skill on the ball and his willingness to work for the team caught the eye of all the English scouts.
It was the legendary Liverpool manager Bob Paisley who managed to lure Ronnie from his comfort zone at the tender age of 18. The price of the move was a bargain, £35,000. Ronnie was now surrounded by the cream of English football on the training ground and set about improving his game and not being over-awed by his surroundings.
His hard work paid off when he made his debut in April 1981 in Anfield and scored in his first game. It was a dream start and set the standard for his future Liverpool career. Throughout the 80s he established himself as an integral part of the Liverpool team. In the process he won 6 league titles, 2 FA cups, 3 league cups and 1 European Cup.
In total Ronnie made 362 appearances for Liverpool and scored 46 goals and was voted 30th in Liverpool’s top 100 by the fans on the club website. Along the way he collecting 53 caps for the Republic and scoring 3 goals. The most important and memorable being his volley from outside the box against the USSR in the 1988 European Championship.
I was a little boy in 1988 but I remember seeing that goal a lot and I remember the World Cup in 1990. I was a Liverpool fan by birth and an impressionable young boy during Ireland’s adventures in Italy in 1990. I was so proud of Ireland and I was so proud of the Irishman who played for Liverpool and scored that fantastic goal.