Remembering Man Utd's Last Trip To Dublin With The Local Lad Who Marked Wayne Rooney

Remembering Man Utd's Last Trip To Dublin With The Local Lad Who Marked Wayne Rooney

Manchester United return to Dublin tonight for the first time since 2010 as they face Sampdoria in their final pre-season before the UEFA Super Cup against Real Madrid.

Seven years ago, Alex Ferguson's side played in the first football match to take place in the newly opened Aviva Stadium, where an Airtricity League XI were the opposition on front of nearly 50,000 fans.

One of the players to play for the Airtricity League XI that day was Dublin native Gavin Peers. The St. Patrick's Athletic defender was at Sligo Rovers at the time and started the game, where he was marking Wayne Rooney.

Although Peers would go on to have more memorable days in the stadium with Sligo Rovers in the FAI Cup, it was still a thrill to be told he was getting the chance to play in the opening match.

[Rovers manager] Paul Cook just told me that he got a phone call off [the Airtricity League XI boss] Damien Richardson that I was in the squad. When you're told you're selected as one of the best players it's great.

The team met up, and we trained only for two or three days. The experience was enjoyable, and it's something I'll never forget.

For Peers, it was the chance to test himself against some of England's elite. The Dubliner had spells at Blackburn Rovers and Mansfield Town, before moving back to Ireland.

For the majority in attendance in the revamped Lansdowne Road, they were there to see United even though they were the away team.  Peers admitted he didn't pass much heed to those in the crowd when he was on the pitch.


It didn't really bother me. I was there to enjoy myself and give a good account of myself. There would have been people watching. Anytime I've gone out, I always wanted to be the best player on the pitch.

There was 50,000 there. United finished second in the league a few months before. It was the first game in the Aviva and I got to mark four top strikers in Wayne Rooney, Michael Owen, Javier Hernandez and Dimitar Berbatov. You don't get that experience every week.

Manchester United won the game 7-1, scoring five goals in the second half. Peers impressed throughout his hour on the pitch, but was at fault for the first goal.

After excellently blocking a potential Wayne Rooney tap-in, Peers was dispossessed in the six-yard box by Park Ji-sung. The attempted clearance ricocheted off the Korean's foot and into the net.

It could have gone anywhere but it had to go into the top corner on front of 50,000 people.

I learned from the situation. I never did it again.

The Airtricity League XI scored in the final 15 minutes through Dave Mulcahy. The goal got one of the loudest cheers of the night, but Peers admitted he was annoyed to lose so heavily.


I can only speak for myself and I was disappointed. I was playing well up to that point [of the first goal]. I was marking Wayne Rooney. He didn't really get by me. I overpowered him a few times.

The concept of an Airtricity League XI has disappeared in recent years. Peers thinks there is still a place for it, if the right opposition is found, but thinks there is greater challenges facing the League at the moment.

It depends on who you're playing against. Manchester United were a good team. If you get a Liverpool or a Celtic, there will be good crowds.

I think the League just needs to get its house in order first though. I don't know why the FAI don't invest in the League like the MLS does.

Peers was substituted early in the second-half. At full-time he swapped jerseys with one of United's new signings from that summer, who went on to have a fine career at Old Trafford. In fact, he's still there.

I got Chris Smalling's jersey. To be honest, I wasn't even thinking of a jersey, because I was pissed off with the mistake I made. On the way off he was beside me, so I swapped with him. He's gone on to do very well for himself.

While tonight's game may not end in a 7-1 win for United against Sampdoria, they are back in familiar territory. Whether or not they return again to play a representative side from league remains to be seen, but Peers' suggestion that there are more pressing issues is certainly a valid one.

SEE ALSO: Remembering Cristiano Ronaldo's Real Madrid Debut In Tallaght Stadium

Daniel Kelly