The Ireland international soccer team secured an excellent draw in their World Cup qualifying match last week in Italy. They played the home side in Bari, a city down in the deep south of Italy, a location where the Italians had won seven times in a row.
It was thus a tremendous result, not just for the manager Giovanni Trappatoni but also for the Waterford players on the night. Having three Waterford men on the team was a fantastic achievement.
John O’Shea of Ferrybank is an Ireland regular in the centre of defence, but now the Hunt brothers have joined the team.
Stephen Hunt from Reading soccer club and Clonea Power in the county of Waterford is now beginning to establish himself on the team, replacing the injured Damien Duff for the past two games, against Bulgaria at home where he made the crucial free kick for the goal, and against Italy.
In the latter game he was a thorn in the side of the Italian defence, running at them physically and with enthusiasm. His team is again doing well in the First Division and he should be back in the English premiership soon. He is more than capable on the international stage even if sometimes he over runs the ball. He puts defenders on the back foot with his strong running, pushing the ball forward. We wonder how he would have played under Big Jack Charlton.
John O’Shea was his usual composed self reading the game well and anticipating opposition moves, going forward where possible and heading up sometimes for frees and corners for Ireland.
He will probably by a future national captain. He certainly would do less complaining than Robbie Keane and show better example and leadership.
Noel Hunt also had a good game despite the protestations by some of the TV pundits. He joined Reading from Dundee United in Scotland, where he had great success scoring 28 goals in 75 matches and almost had a hand in the equaliser, which Robbie Keane claimed. He reckoned that both got a toe to the ball.
But it seems that the last kick counts so this will be debated in Carrick, Portlaw and Clonea for years to come.
Even the Sunday Times hailed the three Waterford men for their gutsy performances, making sure that Ireland was not exclusively a Dublin or Cork team.
Noel came on for Kevin Doyle of Wexford, one of the new sensations of the Irish team, who was not having one of his best matches.
He performed very well with new man Folan. All three should be accorded a civic reception over the summer.
They have brought great credit to Waterford and Ireland. All started in local juvenile football. This is a great achievement for for schoolboy soccer in Waterford and the Johnville and Bohs clubs.