Why Irish eyes will be smiling on Molineux

Like many other Wolves fans, I recognise that our club has a strong link with the Republic of Ireland. We often joke that our manager, former-Ireland boss Mick McCarthy, will be up for signing anyone – if they are either Irish or have played for Sunderland (or both in some cases!) I was really pleased to see them qualify for the European Championships next year,
not only because they are a home nation, but because of that Wolves link.

As a fan of a ‘lesser’ team, our players are rarely exhibited on the international stage. We do experience the odd flash of notification; Nenad Milijas and Adlene Guedioura both featured respectively for Serbia and Algeria at the World Cup in 2010, while last year, Matt Jarvis, became the first Wolves player since Steve Bull to pull on an England shirt. But besides those odd occasions, we do not get in the limelight enough.

Glancing at the Irish squad from their recent 5-1 play-off win against Estonia, our club is the most represented – not through current players, but also ones that have come about from the result of our excellent youth set-up. What was also interesting is that all five of the goals that Ireland scored against Estonia over the two legs, there was a Wolves part played in every one of them. Let’s cast an eye back over those two games to refresh.

Goal one – Ireland go 1-0 up in Estonia after just 13 minutes. Aiden McGeady chips in a cross for midfielder Keith Andrews to head in. Wolves link – Keith Andrews began his career with Wolves, working his way through the youth system before breaking into the first team. Eventually moved on to Hull, before spells with MK Dons, Premier League Blackburn, and now Ipswich.

Goal two – Jonathan Walters doubles the lead with his first international goal, heading in a Robbie Keane cross. Wolves link – An easy one. Robbie Keane is often regarded as one of the best players to ever come through the Wolves youth system. Sold for £6 million in 1999 to Coventry. Went on to play for a host of clubs over the continent, now turning out alongside David Beckham at LA Galaxy. Also the country’s leading goalscorer.

Goal three – Andrews’ 30-yard free-kick is deflected to the feet of Keane, he slots in to make it 3-0 to Ireland. Wolves link – The links from goals one and two make the third goal. The two products of the Wolves Academy combined, albeit unintentionally, to all-but kill off Estonia.

Goal four – Stephen Hunt is fouled in the area late on, allowing Keane to step up and confidently convert the penalty to seal the win. Wolves link – Keane again making the telling impact, but assisted from the work of current Wolves winger Hunt. Players of past and present seal the impressive 4-0 away win for the Irish.

Goal five – Fast-forward a few days and we find ourselves back in Ireland at the Aviva Stadium. With the tie realistically over as a contest, all Ireland need is a professional performance to deny Estonia any hope of an unlikely comeback. Step forward Stephen Ward, who fired in his second international goal from close range after Kevin Doyle had seen a header parried by the goalkeeper. Wolves link – Easiest of the bunch. The hard-working Wolves striker Doyle, regarded as one of the club’s most valuable assets, combining with jack-of-all-trades Ward, to open the scoring.

Although Estonia did go on to pull a goal back, they were never going to unsettle the Irish team, and the game ended 1-1.

So there we have it. Wolves fans can look forward to seeing their contingent of players in the Ireland squad next summer at the competition. I for one will be making Ireland my second team for the tournament, keeping a keen eye on their progress and, in particular, the contribution of the Wolves players. That said; if England do draw Ireland at any stage – for the first time, I’ll be hoping for every Wolves player on the pitch has a nightmare (unless Fabio hands a Wolves player an unlikely call-up to the England squad!)

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