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The Last Time A Clubless Irish Player Played At A Major Finals

By Mark Farrelly
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Going into the 2002 World Cup Gary Breen was guaranteed to one of the first names on the Ireland team sheet. However his World Cup build up was rocked by Coventry’s relegation from the Premier League and his subsequent release.


A now jobless Breen travelled to Saipan not knowing the future had in store for him.  his ensuing adventures in Japan and South Korea made him of the greatest zero to hero sports stories of all time. Amid all the controversy of Saipan, Breen came to the fore, showing great leadership and playing every minute of Ireland’s World Cup campaign. Samuel Eto’o, Fernando Morientes and Carsten Jancker all shuddered in the presence of the most commanding centre back the World Cup had ever seen.

Breen was as a ray hope for every non-league player in the game. 11 years after making his debut for Maidstone United, he was now being reportedly chased by Parma, Inter Milan, and Barcelona. Shortly after the World Cup Sky Sport News broke a story that Breen had failed a medical at the San Siro which put an end to his impending move to Inter Milan. In the end he moved to West Ham, and spoke of how he turned down possible moves abroad (obviously Barcelona!) in order to guarantee himself first team football.

He never again reached the heights of the 2002 World Cup, but Breen's story epitomises how anything can happen with the Irish team. That being said, if Paul Green is indeed picked in Trapp's squad, I will eat my laptop if his Euro 2012 adventure culminates with a contract offer from Inter Milan.

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