What Happened To Ireland's Youngest International Debutants?

By Gary Connaughton

Stephen Kenny named his Republic of Ireland squad for the game against Norway and Malta earlier today, with one surprise inclusion.

Evan Ferguson, the 18-year old Brighton striker, was among the names on the 25-man list. It is quite the achievement for the youngster, who only officially became an adult last month.

By our reckoning, Ferguson would become the fourth youngest debutant in Ireland's history should he feature in either of the two fixtures. You'd imagine that would set him up for a long and successful career with Ireland, but there are no guarantees in football.

With Ferguson's call-up in mind, we have taken a look at how Ireland previous five youngest debutants fared in their careers.

Ireland's Youngest International Debutants

Jimmy Holmes - 17 years 199 days

Jimmy Holmes became the youngest senior international in Republic of Ireland history when he stepped onto the pitch to face Austria in May 1971, replacing Don Givens in the 74th minute of a 4-1 defeat.

A Coventry City player at the time, he was part of the side that had reached the FA Youth Cup final the year before. Having turned professional that summer, he would find himself in the Ireland squad by the end of that season.

Holmes would go on to win 30 Ireland caps over the following decade, the last of which came at the ripe old age of 27.

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The left back would move to Spurs in 1977, spending four years in North London before going to Vancouver Whitecaps for a season. After that, he would take in stops at the likes of Leicester City, Brentford, and Toryquay United. Holmes' final years in football would be spent as player-manager for a number of non-league sides.

After football, he would go on to become a police officer and chauffeur in the English Midlands. On one occasion he would find himself on duty at Coventry City's Highfield Road for a testimonial, going on to play in the game himself after one of the players failed to show up.

Robbie Keane - 17 years 259 days

Whatever happened to this lad?

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It didn't take long for Robbie Keane to establish himself as a key member of the Ireland team after making his debut against the Czech Republic in 1998, starring in both the Euro 2000 and 2002 World Cup qualifying campaigns.

Of course, Keane would eventually become Ireland's all-time leading scorer by the time he hung up his boots. His mark of 67 international goals is unlikely to be bettered anytime soon.

At club level, the Dubliner would score 126 goals for six different clubs, also being named as MLS MVP and winning three MLS Cups during his time with LA Galaxy.

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He probably would have taken all of that at the time of his debut as a bright-eyed 17-year old.

Troy Parrott - 17 years 282 days

Still only 20-years old, the story of Troy Parrott's career is still very much being written.

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He became Ireland's youngest debutant in over two decades when he started the friendly against New Zealand in November of 2019, although he would have to wait another year for his competitive debut.

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The striker has since won 17 international caps, scoring four goals along the way.

While currently out with an injury, he looked to be really finding his stride in an Ireland jersey over the last 12 months or so. Hopes will be high that he will have a long and successful career in green.

Gary Waddock - 18 years 44 days

London-born Gary Waddock was among the first wave of 'granny rule' players when he made his debut in 1980, playing in a friendly against Switzerland.

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The midfielder would win 21 caps for the country in total. However, despite being part of the early Jack Charlton years, he would never play in a major tournament.

He came close in 1990.

Having recovered from a potentially career-ending injury, Waddock was named in Ireland's preliminary squad for Italia 90. He even travelled to the squad's pre-tournament training camp in Malta. However, Jack Charlton experienced a last minute change of heart and opted to bring Alan McLoughlin to the tournament instead. He later admitted that excluding Waddock from the final panel was a mistake.

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Speaking to the Irish Independent last year, Waddock admitted that it was tough to take at the time but he held no ill feelings towards the man that replaced him.

Taking Alan aside, it was a difficult time for me, with what I had gone through with my injury I wanted to get to the highest level possible and the World Cup would have been the highest level.

So to fall short was disappointing personally for me but great for Alan when he came in. I shook his hand and wished him luck, it was a decision that Jack made, not Alan, so I had no hard feelings towards Alan...

It never came up between the two of us after and it didn't have to, it was Jack's decision and all I could do was wish him well, though it was a hard time for me then, but time is a great healer, it happened and I dealt with it.

At club level, he had a long and successful career at QPR after coming through the club's academy, playing in an FA Cup final in 1982. He would then spend a couple of years in Belgium with Charleroi, before returning to England for spells at Millwall, Bristol Rovers, and Luton Town.

Waddock has moved into coaching since retirement. He has managed the likes of QPR, Aldershot Town, Wycombe Wanderers, and Oxford United over the last 15 years or so. He is currently the assistant manager at Cambridge United in League One.

Aiden McGeady - 18 years 59 days

Aiden McGeady's Ireland career is probably a bit underrated.

Starting out as an 18-year old back in 2004, he would go on to win 93 caps at international level. The winger would also play in two major tournaments along the way, although he did only score five goals.

His career at club level probably didn't reach the heights that it looked like they once would. Having starred at Celtic, he took the rather unorthodox decision to move to Spartak Moscow. While he would play Champions League football at the club, he struggled to settle in Russia and went through some rather crazy experiences in the nation's capital.

After moving to Everton, he initially impressed in the Premier League. However, a couple of loan moves to the Championship would follow after falling out of favour.

McGeady would spend five years at Sunderland, experiencing a late career renaissance during their spell in League One. He would leave the Stadium of Light last summer, signing for Hibernian on a free transfer. He has yet to appear for them in the league this season after picking up an ankle injury.

SEE ALSO: FAI Set To Announce British Brand As New Ireland Kit Supplier

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