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Jason McAteer Still Believes The 2002 Irish Team Are Historically Undervalued

Jason McAteer Still Believes The 2002 Irish Team Are Historically Undervalued
By Conor Neville

Now that the memory of Saipan has receded and passions have cooled, people are beginning to evince nostalgia for the boys of 2002.

Time was, the Irish team of 2002 complained of being unloved relative to the old boys of the Charlton era.

The wheel has turned. Last year, Stephen Hunt bemoaned the poor reputation of the current crop in the public mind relative to the likes of McAteer and co.

However, Jason McAteer told Balls.ie that the team who boarded the plane to Japan is still, in his view, historically undervalued.

I do. I don't think they get the credit they probably deserve. I think Mick as a manager doesn't (either). It's always tough to follow such an iconic figure as Jack was and how successful Jack was . It's always difficult to reach them heights but at the end of the day to get us out of that group against Portugal and the Dutch. To get us out of that group was a major feat. And I think it was obviously overshadowed by what happened with Roy coming home. It was overlooked and the positives of getting there were overshadowed by the events of what happened.

We had some very, very good players as well. I think Robbie, at one point, was world class. Damien Duff, you could put him in a world class bracket at his peak. Shay, probably not world class, but not far off it.

Every team since the Jack Charlton has been maligned in its own way. The barren years that followed served to elevate the Korea/Japan

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McAteer is surprisingly forthright in his view that the current side don't match up favourably to either of the World Cup squads he formed part of.

I think when you're making comparisons between the two teams. I think you look at our team. When you look at the players, they were at Liverpool, Manchester United, Aston Villa, Tottenham... We obviously had a sprinkle of world class players.

I think right throughout the team, I think our quality would show. We played at a much higher level when it came to club football. I'm not being disrespectful to the current bunch of players. You've got to go with what you've got.

I think, overall, we had more strength and depth.

He is not ebullient about Ireland's chances in the summer, believing that Ireland are going to need three points in the opener to set themselves up. The Belgians, he feels, are primed and ready to deliver.

It's going to be really tough. The group hasn't done us any favours. There's no easy game. I think if you look at the Italians, they've gone through a transitional period, they cruised to their group, they were very, very convincing. I think the Belgians are outside favourites (for the tournament) This glamour group they've had over the past three or four years is starting to flourish and it's going to have to deliver now.

As for the 1994 v 2002 team?

That's close. That's a lot closer than the current crop... For me, the team in '94 were an ageing group. 1990 would be a better comparison but I didn't play in 1990. I'm going to go for youth. So, I'm going to go 2002. I'm going to say a bit more youth might 'do' the team of '94... but I don't think the team of 2002 would beat the team of 1990.

Former Republic of Ireland International Jason McAteer, current Republic of Ireland women's star Aine O’Gorman and SPAR National Sales Director, Colin Donnelly, were on hand to help launch the 2016 SPAR FAI Primary School 5s Programme.

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Read more: World Cup 2002 vs Euro 2016 - Is Ireland's Current Squad Really 'Miles Behind'?

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