There is a strong possibility that five Waterford born players will be named in the Republic of Ireland squad to play Cyprus in Croke Park on Wednesday, October 15, in what will be our third game in the World Cup qualifying group. In the two games to date against Georgia and Montenegro, ties which brought a total of four points from a possible six three Waterford players were involved. John O’Shea and Stephen Hunt played in both games while Daryl Murphy took his place on Giovanni Trapattoni’s bench.
Since those games Stephen’s brother Noel Hunt has made a real impact in England by turning on the style with his new club Reading. Signed during the close season by Steve Coppell from Dundee United, the St John’s Park native has scored against Luton Town in the Carling Cup and last week he really made people sit up and take notice of his talent by scoring two cracking goals against Sheffield Wednesday in the Coca Cola Championship, a game Reading won 6-0. Kevin Doyle scored a hat-trick in that game and Stephen Hunt also played his part by setting up a goal for Andre Bikey.
Noel Hunt scored his first goal in the rout of Sheffield Wednesday by latching on to a long ball before coolly sliding the ball under the advancing goalkeeper. His second goal was also a real beauty. He collected the ball on the edge of the penalty area. His first touch took him inside the box and then without breaking his stride he fired a low shot into the net to complete a terrible night for the Owls. It came as no surprise that the Reading supporters gave him a standing ovation.
Liam Brady, the coach of the Republic of Ireland team, has been one of those people who are now beginning (at long last) to take notice of the former Johnville starlet. Speaking last Wednesday at the launch of the new Eircom sponsorship deal with the international team, Liam admitted that Giovanni Trapattoni, Marco Tardeli and himself are noting the progress of Noel. “We spend a lot of time watching Reading because they have Kevin Doyle, Stephen Hunt and Shane Long in their team and we know what Noel Hunt is doing. It is always good to have players coming through who have not as yet got into the squad and of course Noel Hunt is one of those players. He is doing very well right now” said Brady.
Another player who could break into the Irish squad is the former Manchester City and Swansea City goalkeeper Brian Murphy. Brian played his schoolboy football with the local Waterford Bohemians club in Ben Wadding Park before heading across the water. He has a massive collection of caps at all levels but as yet he has to break into the full Republic of Ireland squad. He has conceded only 8 goals to date playing with the League of Ireland Premier Division runaway leaders Bohemians and he is well on his way to creating a new all time record for goals conceded in the top grade National League.
Last Friday he did not concede once again as Bohemians won 3-0 away to Finn Harps to bring his record to 26 games played and only 8 conceded. His club are a massive 16 points clear of second placed St Patrick’s Athletic with only eight games left to play. He was reported to be unhappy about the fact that a goalkeeper from a low league team in England got the nod ahead of him some months ago despite his brilliant form for “The Gypsies” but he played down that story when I spoke to him last week.
He said: “Perhaps some of the things I said were taken out of context. It was at a time when a debate was on-going about League of Ireland players being overlooked for the Irish team. Right now I am enjoying my football with Bohs and we are on track for the league and cup double. Our win against St Patrick’s Athletic recently put us 16 points clear at the top and after beating Wayside Celtic 6-1 we are through to the semi final of the FAI Cup. I believe that I am playing the best football of my life now and if an international call came it would be great but right now all I want to do is try and keep as many clean sheets as possible from now until the end of the season. I have another year on my contract but there has been interest shown from some big clubs in England.
Contracts in football are strange but right now all I want to do is chase two medals and we will take things from there” said a very happy Brian Murphy.
There is no doubt that he is the best goalkeeper to grace Irish football sine the great Peter Thomas and surely an international call is on the cards once again for the Waterford born goalkeeper. There is a proposed Ireland “B” match pencilled in for October 11th- four days before the Cyprus game and Trapattoni has gone on record to admit that he is keen to throw his eye over some players that he has not used to date in that game. Hopefully he will not use that game to watch Noel Hunt and Brian Murphy in that match because both of them deserve to be in with Daryl Murphy, John O’Shea and Stephen Hunt in the full squad and bring Waterford’s total to five, something that we could have only dreamt about some years ago. Hunt by two. Murphy by two plus John O’Shea. Sounds good to me !