Five Co. Tipperary soccer players made their mark on the international stage over the past ten days.
On Tuesday of last week Gortnahoe man and former TSDL player Shane Long produced a man of the match performance against World Cup semi-finalists Uruguay in a friendly at the Aviva Stadium.
On last Wednesday night up in Oriel Park, Dundalk, four current TSDL players were helping the Republic of Ireland defeat Northern Ireland 2-0 in an Amateur international.
The Ireland’s record breaking Amateur International and current captain, 34 year-old Cashel man, James Walsh, was breaking his own record by making his 64th appearance for his country. He was replaced at the break by his St. Michael’s teammate and Dundrum native Paul Breen. Paul, who was a regular on the Irish team up until injury ruled him out of the UEFA Regions Cup qualifiers earlier in the season, is now back to full fitness and following another impressive performance in the green jersey is out to stake his claim for the trip to Portugal for the UEFA Regions Cup finals in June.
Two other Tipperary players were also making impressive debuts for Ireland. These were Bansha player and another St. Michael’s player Chris Higgins and Cashel native and Clonmel Town shot-stopper Richard Ryan.
Former Tipperary Gaelic footballer Chris, who is now concentrating on soccer is part of the St. Michael’s defence that also includes James Walsh and Paul Breen, and has caught the eye of Irish boss Gerry Smith with impressive performances for the TSDL Inter-League team. Smith was present at the Wexford game the previous Thursday in Tipp town and Higgins was put in at the deep end, playing the full match and was involved in setting up the opening goal. Following his man of the match award it looks like he could have a long international career ahead of him. Chris follows in the footsteps of one of the TSDL’s, St. Michael’s and Bansha Celtic’s greatest players, Michael ‘Foxy’ Grace.
Richard Ryan, who played the opening 45 minutes in Dundalk, is the latest in a long list of Clonmel Town players to wear the green jersey. Richard, who played for the Irish Colleges, joins current junior international player Tony Scully and is following in the footsteps of former Town greats, Cyril Conran (who captained the Irish team), Stephen O’Neill, Aaron Moroney, Tony Norris and Kevin Waters.