Goalkeeper Brian Murphy’s call-up to the Ireland squad for the make-or-break assignments in Dublin and Paris is fitting recognition of the Waterford native’s consistent excellence domestically, and in Europe, over the past few seasons. Though chances are he won’t be required, the 26-year-old, who will join up with Ipswich Town in January, is literally entering a different league now.
The last goalkeeper from the League of Ireland to earn a full Irish cap was Waterford FC legend Peter Thomas, the Englishman who was, to many minds, the main reason the club won six League titles in the late ’60s and early ’70s — marrying his agility with his Peter Bonnetti-style attack-launching throws — and of course ‘Tommo’, whose presence belied his stature (5’10), was still between the posts when the Blues last lifted the FAI Cup nearly 30 years ago now.
The former Coventry City custodian, who turns 65 the week after next, took out Irish citizenship to play for the Republic and made his debut in Johnny Giles’ first game as player-manager in October 1973 against Poland (who’d ended England’s World Cup ambitions at Wembley just four days earlier and went on to finish third at the finals in West Germany).
Peter kept his share of a clean sheet in a 1-0 win at a packed Dalymount Park, having to come off at half-time after pulling a stomach muscle, but not before he produced what journalist Peter Byrne called one “priceless save” from Polish playmaker Kazimierz Deyna.
In five years with the squad, Peter’s only other cap came against world champions Brazil (including Jairzinho and Rivellino, who scored) in front of 120,000 at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro in May 1974 – a game the visitors lost by only the odd goal in three.
Sensing a management bias in favour of English-based players, “TOMMO FOR IRELAND!’ was the familiar cry from fans in Kilcohan Park. Shay Given will take some shifting for sure – and what’s the betting the Donegal man will surpass such greats as Dino Zoff (112 appearances) and Peter Shilton (125) – but hopefully a certain former Waterford Bohs schoolboy will win more than a couple of caps before he hangs up his gloves.