Ronnie Whelan

Ronnie Whelan

5th Jun 2009

Dubliner Ronnie Whelan won ever trophy there was worth collecting in the English and European club game with his beloved Liverpool, but surprisingly was restricted to just 53 international caps for Ireland in a career that stretched a total of 14 years between 1981and 1995.

With a total of nearly 500 first team appearances for Liverpool, Whelan won six League Championship winners' medals, two FA Cups, three League Cups and one European Cup as well as amassing 73 goals for the Anfield men. He made his first appearance in an Irish shirt at the age of 19 when introduced as a 63rd minute substitute for Gerry Daly in the 3-1 victory over Czechoslovakia at Lansdowne Road on April 29, 1981.

Again used as a substitute by manager Eoin Hand in the 2-2 World Cup qualifier against Holland in Rotterdam on September the same year, Whelan at last won his first place in the Ireland starting line-up in the memorable 3-2 victory over France in the World Cup qualifier against France before 53,000 at Lansdowne Road on October 14, 1981.

Whelan's midfield poise, even as a teenager, was remarkable in the extreme that afternoon. His control and authority belied his years as he pushed forward at every opportunity against a very strong French side.

Injuries and club calls often restricted his appearances for his country, but there was never any doubting Whelan's commitment to his country's jersey. When Jack Charlton took over as boss in March 1986, the Liverpool man was usually an integral part of the proceedings.

Perhaps one of his best starring appearances was in the 1-0 victory over Scotland in the European Championship qualifier at Hampden Park, Glasgow on February 18, 1987 when asked to play in the left-back role due to injuries to Chris Hughton and Jim Beglin. Whelan answered the call in style completely nullifying the threat of Everton's Pat Nevin.

Ireland made history by reaching those 1988 Euro' finals in Germany with those memorable ties against England, the Soviet Union and Holland. But it was the match against the Soviets that will stay longest in Whelan's memory. Seven minutes before the interval, a huge throw-in from Mick McCarthy on the left enabled Whelan to fire in a spectacular bicycle kick from just outside the penalty area giving 'keeper Dasayev no chance. Alas the Soviets, against the run of play, equalised through Protasov with just 16 minutes remaining.

The World Cup finals of 1990 in Italy and 1994 in USA were virtual non-events for Whelan because of recurring injury problems. That was a shame as there was still so much more the Liverpool man might have offered his country on the big occasion.