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When Wes Hoolahan Came Of Age Against Deportivo La Coruna

Colman Stanley
By Colman Stanley
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Shelbourne's famous run-in with Deportivo La Coruna burns bright in the memory of many Irish football fans. On August 11 2004, Shels hosted Deportivo in Lansdowne Road in a massive Champions League qualifier.

Stuey Byrne, Pat Fenlon, and Alan Cawley spoke to Con Murphy in March as part of Balls.ie’s UEFA Champions League Memories series, in partnership with LiveScore about that famous campaign.

Byrne and Cawley were part of a legendary Shelbourne team that was managed by Pat Fenlon. The side also included fan-favourites such as Dave Rogers, Joseph Ndo, and Jason Byrne. However, it was Wes Hoolahan who was the star of the side and would go onto have the most successful career.

Hoolahan Champions League

11 August 2004; Shelbourne team, back left to right, Owen Heary, Jamie Harris, Steve Williams, David Crawley, Stuart Byrne, Dave Rogers and Fred Davis, front left to right, Jason Byrne, Glen Fitzpatrick, Wesley Hoolahan, Ollie Cahill and Alan Moore. UEFA Champions League, 3rd Round First Leg Qualifier, Shelbourne v Deportivo La Coruna, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit; David Maher / SPORTSFILE

At the age of 39, Hoolahan still made a huge impact for Cambridge United last season, and at the age of 22 he was part of a Shelbourne side who made one of the most famous European runs in Irish footballing history.

Remembering Wes Hoolahan at Shelbourne

In 2004, Shelbourne reached the third Champions League qualifying round, after overcoming KR Reykjavik and Hajduk Split. They then faced Spanish powerhouses Deportivo La Coruna, with the first leg, a 0-0 draw, being played in Lansdowne Road.


Both Fenlon and Byrne both spoke of Hoolahan’s phenomenal performance that night, and how the young midfielder 'came of age'.

“We used to try and find a place to play him,” Fenlon says. “You’d play him wide and he was predominantly left-footed, playing wide on the right and he’d come in off the line and he was difficult to play against, he was just a free spirit.


“Them two nights for Weso for me was when he became a top top player, because he didn’t shirk anything.


“To get on the ball against such a good team at such a young age just said to me this boys gonna play because there’s no fear.”

Byrne agreed with Fenlon, while also giving his own interesting insight into the character of a young Wes Hoolahan.


“That was it I hadn’t really taken much notice of Wes up until that game, even though I was a teammate and I knew what he was capable of. But to be fair to him he was a little brat. He was. He needed a slap every now and then.

“But he was a young kid, came up in the inner city, and we all went through those stages, but sometimes you wanted to shake him.

“That night I was doing a man marking job on Valeron so I was the sitting midfielder and I had Alan Moore and Wes in front of me.


“But I was looking at Wes going oh my god this kid is ridiculous. Genuinely Con I said he’s not even going to make it to the away game, that’s how good he was. I said he’s gone, this kid’s gone, if anyone is watching this game, this kid’s gone. End of story.”

You can check out our other UEFA Champions League Memories pieces on Celtic and Leeds, ahead of the upcoming Champions League fixtures next week.

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