Football

'He Made Me Want To Be A Footballer' - Irish Footballers On The Legacy Of Alan McLoughlin

'He Made Me Want To Be A Footballer' - Irish Footballers On The Legacy Of Alan McLoughlin

There have been countless tributes paid to Alan McLoughlin in the wake of his death on Tuesday afternoon. The former Ireland midfielder passed away aged 54 after a battle with cancer, and Irish football pundits paid tribute to McLoughlin in the buildup to Tuesday evening's Champions League game between Manchester City and PSG.

RTÉ's coverage featured Damien Duff, who made his Irish senior debut for a team featuring McLoughlin in 1998 against the Czech Republic. He spoke of his kind-hearted nature and suggested that Irish youngsters such as his fellow pundit Richie Sadlier were inspired by McLoughlin's goal against Northern Ireland in 1993 to start playing football.

Alan was an absolute gentleman, a class act. We kind of overlapped - I was starting off, he was finishing off. Him and quite a few others inspired a generation. It's the reason why I played football, with his goal qualifying us for the '94 World Cup that famous night in Windsor Park. I remember it distinctly where it was. Probably why Richie plays football and many other Irish players. So, a very sad day.

Duff also paid tribute to former Shelbourne and Finn Harps player Alan Keely, who sadly passed away earlier this week at the age of 38. Alan was the son of former Shelbourne manager Dermot Keely, and his passing brought about a similar raft of tributes on social media earlier this week.

Very sad day for Dermot Keely as well. I know him, he was my teacher at school, business studies, a great character. No father should bury their son. A very sad day, I send my condolences to both families.

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Virgin Media were also covering the Man City v PSG game on Tuesday evening, with Brian Kerr and Damien Delaney on their punditry team. Though he said that he never knew McLoughlin personally, Kerr spoke highly of the former Ireland midfielder. He also insisted that his contribution to the Irish game should be remembered as far greater than just that goal in Belfast in 1993.

Former Irish international Damien Delaney backed up Damien Duff's point on RTÉ, saying that McLoughlin's goal in Belfast was indeed the moment that made him want to pursue a career as a footballer.

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For me, as a 12 year old boy sitting at home in Cork watching Alan McLoughlin score that goal, it helped shape my view of football. What I wanted to be - I knew that when you see something like that, you want to be a footballer. That inspiration - and that's what it was, for me, to see that. I wasn't aware of all the Troubles that maybe Brian was or yourself at the time as a 12-year-old boy. It was just the goal, and what it did for the country and what it did for all of us. He went before us and paved the way and made me want to be a footballer, played a part in me wanting to be a footballer.

People like Alan deserve a huge amount of respect, and he'd a great career.

Alan McLoughlin will forever be remembered for Belfast in 1993, but it's clear from the comments of Tuesday night's pundits that his impact on Irish football runs far far deeper than just one goal. He will be sorely missed.

SEE ALSO: The Day Alan McLoughlin Chose Ireland Over England

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Eoin Harrington

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