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Noel Hunt Reveals The Remarkable Fall-Out Over That Disputed Goal In Italy

Noel Hunt Reveals The Remarkable Fall-Out Over That Disputed Goal In Italy

Noel Hunt was the guest on this week's edition of the Football Show, and in a lengthy interview, he touched on a vast number of topics, including his disillusion with the end of his international career after a fall-out over his claiming the equaliser in Bari, Phil Brown not keeping his eye on the ball at Southend, what makes a good football agent, and how Didier Drogba is to blame for his missing out on a move to Chicago. You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or your android app of choice, just search Football Show from Balls.ie. Alternatively, you can listen below. 

Now 34, Hunt has been out of the international picture for some time, having won the last of his three caps in 2009. His Irish career is most remembered for a night in the South of Italy, however. He was introduced as a second-half substitute alongside Caleb Folan as Ireland chased a goal in a World Cup qualifier against the World champions in Bari.

The point was secured three minutes from the end. Folan's contribution is clear; Hunt's less so. Folan's flicked header secured the assist, but the goalscorer is shrouded in doubt. It has been given to Robbie Keane, but Hunt claims that it was he who applied the finishing touch.

Hunt went as far as contacting the FAI to claim the goal after it had been awarded to Keane, and was told that he had grounds to appeal it. The goal remains attributed to Keane, however, something Hunt was clearly irritated by for some time.

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He also believes that the entire farrago is partly responsible for his freezing out of the international picture,

It was amazing. I'm just a bit gutted that it didn't last a bit longer. I felt that I deserved to be in the squad. After the Italy game, I felt I was frozen out a bit, after the whole Robbie Keane thing, with the goal. It was too short for me, I wish it went on longer.

I came out and talked about it. People would have thought 'oh, he's just bitter and raw', but look: football is a great deal of my life, but it's not my life. I love winning and I love football, but there is so much more to life. To me, friends are more important, family is more important; memories are more important than money.

After the game, I had a couple of phone calls from people who I won't mention, who were high up in the organisation and the staff, who were saying, 'look, we don't want to upset anyone, so we are going to leave it as it is'. I pleaded my case, and asked them the question if they scored for their country. One of them did - he was a legend, and scored a couple of times - but I asked one of the guys in the background if he had scored for Ireland and could he describe to me what it was like.

He said 'No I can't', so I said 'Then don't ring me ever again. How dare you tell me that something I grew up dreaming about has been taken away from me'.

I remember speaking to Brian McDermott back at Reading and he told me, 'you know in your heart of hearts who scored, and that's all that matters'. I do, and I still do, and that's all that matters. It's gone now, and it doesn't bother me anymore. It used to really grind on me that I got shortchanged, but now I know in my heart I know what happened that night: I thought I played well and I know I had scored.

At the same time, fair play to Robbie, I know he was thinking the same. But I know, because I saw my foot connect with the ball. That's it, end of story.

Hunt says there was no ill-feeling between himself and his "hero" Keane, and they laughed about it on the plane back to England. What does irk him, however, is "the way it was dealt with, and the way I was dismissed".

 

When asked if he thinks he would have won more international caps had this entire incident not happened, this was Hunt's response:

I would have liked to have thought so.

The season after that, I banged in two or three goals in the Premier League, in a row. There were two or three internationals at that time, but there were two or three lads in the squad ahead of me. I was thinking, 'y'know what, I'm doing it at the highest level you possibly can'. At the same time, I'm a positive man and I used it in a positive way, and I had the time to get extra work done on the trianing ground.

Looking back, I feel that I should have won a few more caps.

You can listen to the full interview on the podcast. 

Gavin Cooney
Article written by
Changed the spelling of his name upon pressure from Michael Owen.