Never let it be said we don't do any real investigative journalism here at Balls.ie. In the first of our new series we've gone full Dirty Harry and uncovered a massive cover-up which was instigated by former Ireland manager Mick McCarthy and Denis Irwin.
Following our investigation we contest that Steve Finnan is actually Denis Irwin. Here are the reasons why:
1. The timeline makes perfect sense
Think about it: Denis Irwin retires in November 1999. After 12 months of searching for a replacement, Ireland manager Mick McCarthy approaches Irwin about making his return as an alter ego. Enter Mr Steven Finnan, who makes his debut in November 2000.
Coincidence? I think not.
2. They both had a haircut you could set your watch by
Denis never bothered changing the hair-do when he was playing as himself so once he found a hair disguise as Finnan, he stuck with it. A no-nonsense approach which, although admirable, has given the game away.
Irwin in 1994
Irwin in 1998
Finnan in 2000
Finnan in 2002
Finnan in 2008
3. They could play left or right back
The obvious comparison here. Denis Irwin was famously comfortable on either his left or right foot. Indeed his crossing ability from full back was renowned. As was Steve Finnan.
Full backs who are equally as adept at defending as they are attacking are a rare commodity and it would seem the case for Irwin and Finnan being the same person is gathering even more veracity.
4. They were both admired for their consistency and understated approach
You could literally interchange any quotes you hear about either player and they'd have the exact same sentiment.
5. Their set piece ability
When Denis Irwin came back as Steve Finnan he had a problem. No full back in the world, bar Ian Harte, was as good as Irwin in dead ball situations. If he showed the same ability as Finnan it would surely be a giveaway.
Therefore it makes sense that he decide against taking frees and penalties when playing as Finnan ... except ... except when it was really really needed.
And when it was, he absolutely stitched it!
6. Their Champions League credentials
Not too many players with the exact same ability, personality, love for a set haircut, set piece talent, positional awareness and general soundness have won Champions League medals.
A little too much of a coincidence if you ask me.
7. Explaining the height difference
Extra long studs. It's simple.
Throughout Irwin's career he stuck to plain black Umbro boots. When he became Steve Finnan he needed to change his appearance so opted for plain black boots, with extra long studs which gave him another four inches, to take his height to 6 foot.
The jury's decision
Having carefully examined the evidence we find that there is actually no way Steve Finnan could not have been Denis Irwin. The similarities are too great to ignore and Irwin should just come clean at this stage. Indeed many would laud him for a) being able to continue playing to such an old age and b) being able to sustain both his and Finnan's club career at the same time.
Both he and his alter ego have been contacted for comment but have yet to reply by time of publication.