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The Wes Hoolahan Hall Of Fame: Honouring Players Who Pundits Love More Than Managers

By Conor Neville
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Honouring those players whose stock rose the longer they went without playing.

The Weso's are a non-profit organisation set up to honour those men who became the darlings of the Irish sporting public the longer the remained off the field. Those men who can't cross the road without Eamon Dunphy remarking on the aplomb with which they did so.

Those men whose lofty standing among self-declared knowledgeable fans is matched only the suspicion and scepticism with which they are regarded by their cagey managers.

Here are the six inductees into the Wes Hoolahan Hall of Fame.

Andy Reid

For a time there in 2009, it felt like Andy Reid was in with a shout of being nominated for the Ballon d'Or. The longer he went without playing for Ireland, the more his reputation grew.


Trapattoni ensured that Reid would remain a darling of the Irish supporters for all time. Actually playing would have jeopardised that. Wes's stock has already fallen a tad since his longer than usual run-out against Germany.

Soon, other boys would catch our eye. Young McClean from Derry, and of course Weso, but the clever and creative Reid was, for this era of football fans, our first love.

Geordan Murphy


Geordan Murphy was the stick used to beat Eddie O'Sullivan for years. Here was proof of Eddie's dour conservatism and pathological inflexibility.

It started going wrong early days. Murphy was a bit out of sight, out of mind over at Leicester and so was overlooked by the Irish set-up in the early 2000s. Eddie persisted in picking Girvan Dempsey, a man often patronised as a 'safe pair of hands' and often compared unfavourably with the more dashing and infinitely sexier Murphy.

After his reign ended and his apologia was published, Eddie spent the early part of 2009 being interviewed on sports shows like a disgraced former Taoiseach. The fact that Declan Kidney (who would subsequently suffer a similar from grace) won the Grand Slam in his first year didn't help matters.


In these interviews, Eddie was regularly assailed to account for his refusal to play Geordan.

All told, O'Sullivan seemed a bit bemused about the fixation on Murphy, one that only really gathered steam during the 2007 World Cup. He acknowledged that Murphy was a fantastically talented player, but maintained that 'Geordan had flaws in his game'. After Murphy gave Eddie a thorough going over in his autobiography, O'Sullivan's ghostwriter Vincent Hogan hit back with a spiky column, recalling in particular the appalling attempt at a tackle on Raphael Ibanez before the Frenchman scored the first ever try in Croke Park - an error which could be said to cost Ireland a Grand Slam.

David O'Leary



That Icelandic tournament back in 1986 was a significant moment in Irish football. Not only was it the first ever tournament Ireland had won (until we won the Celtic Nations Cup in 2011) it was also the trigger for one of the longest player-manager stand-offs in Irish football (until that point).

O'Leary's position was that he couldn't be arsed coming back from a family holiday to play in this meaningless competition after a long season. Jack wasn't impressed by O'Leary's position that he couldn't be arsed coming back from a family holiday to play in this meaningless competition after a long season.

With his usual mixture of gruffness and vindictive stubborness, Charlton proceeded to pick the much inferior Mick McCarthy for the next five years, relegating the classier O'Leary to the bench - at best. Ridiculed as a weakness by all and sundry, home pundits and away pundits alike, McCarthy was once challenged to a 100m dash by a critical Irish journalist, a challenge which he was insecure enough to accept.


It wasn't just Iceland, however. Jack's life-long distrust of centre backs 'who wanted to play' also militated against O'Leary and playeed into the hands of McCarthy. O'Leary became a cause celebre for the RTE panel, particularly Dunphy, in the early Charlton years.

Ian Madigan

The early part of 2013 saw Ian Madigan become Declan Kidney's Geordan Murphy, a player whose outrageous flair a petrified, conservative coach conspired to overlook. With Johnny Sexton crocked after the England game, and the coach losing faith with an ageing Ronan O'Gara, Kidney turned not to the golden boy of the Leinster academy but to the even more left-field choice of Paddy Jackson. Maybe Kidney wasn't conservative after all.


His refusal to countenance picking 'Mads' until Ireland were down to the bare bones in the second half in Rome, sealed Kidney's status as the bete noire of the RDS set.

James McClean

When McClean made his debut as a substitute in the Ireland-Czech Republic pre-Euro 2012 friendly, the roar which erupted stunned Trapattoni. His voice croaking with frustration, he remarked to the press corps, 'I thought: 'Is Messi or Maradona or Pele coming on?'

McClean subsequently became a fixture in the Irish team but it quickly transpired that he wasn't the messiah. It turned out that he had just been a player on the crest of a wave in the first few months of 2012. His difficult second album in the 2012-13 season turned out to be a very difficult one indeed and he wasn't to remain a Premier League player much longer.

Tony Ward

Limerick rugby's 1970s babe magnet Tony Ward was the original spurned man of Irish rugby. The European Player of the Year in 1978 and 79, Ward was taken to one side by the selection committee, before the Ireland-Australia test match of 1979. In those days, the committee included actual players. Fergus Slattery was one of the three man committee and made no bones about his preference for Ollie Campbell over Ward.

Ireland went on to beat Australia in both tests and Campbell went on to steer Ireland to the Five Nations championship in 1982. Ward continued to have very vigorous supporters in the press and on the terraces but it's impossible not to accept that Ollie delivered big time.

Wardy's supporters remained loud to the last and he even caused Eamon Dunphy, the chief booster of Weso's everywhere, to venture into a spot of rugby writing on his retirement in 1987.

Dunphy wrote that 'Tony Ward has been the victim of bigotry, snobbishness and hypocrisy that is unique to rugby union.'

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