Lee O’Connor will become the first Celtic player to be capped by the Republic of Ireland in five years when he takes to the field for their friendly against New Zealand on Thursday.
National boss Mick McCarthy took the unusual step of naming his team for the 7:45pm kick-off on Wednesday morning. The Irish Mirror report that he will look to give youth a chance against the All Whites and O’Connor will be included at right-back.
The former Manchester United man, 19, is yet to make his club debut for Neil Lennon’s side. But circumstances mean that his international bow will come first.
He’ll become the first player to play for Ireland, while on Celtic’s books, since Anthony Stokes in 2014. The attacker featured in a similar friendly against the United States in November 2014 – while still plying his trade in Glasgow.
Current Celtic squad member Jonny Hayes was capped in a game in June 2017 but that was a fortnight before he was signed by the club.
So Celtic may not have had a great number of Irish international stars in recent memory but that hasn’t always been the case. The club has a proud history of its players playing for Republic of Ireland. And judging by a few of these names, O’Connor is going to be in esteemed company.
Legendary forward Robbie Keane is regarded as one of the finest footballer’s Ireland has ever produced. The 39-year-old enjoyed a glittering career at club level but he arguably saved his best stuff for on the international stage.
Keane won 146 caps for his country – an Irish record – and he also scored 68 goals making him the all-time top Irish goalscorer. He played at the 2002 World Cup and also featured at Euro 2012 and Euro 2016.
His time at Celtic wasn’t nearly as prolonged but he still made a real impression. Keane netted 16 goals in just 19 games while playing in Glasgow – a record made even better by the fact he was part of one of our poorest teams in recent memory.
Aiden McGeady didn’t sound particularly Irish whenever you heard him talk. Born in Rutherglen, he qualified to play for the Republic of Ireland through his paternal grandparents. He certainly took advantage of that opportunity and has since gone on to earn a whopping 93 caps.
At the age of 33 McGeady will still be hoping to add to that tally. However, he’s not featured for his country in nearly two years. Given his current club are struggling League One outfit Sunderland, that may not be changing anytime soon.
Packie Bonner earned 80 caps for Ireland between 1981 and 1996 – making him his country’s most capped goalkeeper at the time. He held that record until Shay Given came along, with the former Celtic youngster registering a massive 134 appearances.
Bonner played his part in a number of major Irish triumphs. They included the famous win over England at Euro 88 and some penalty heroics at the World Cup two years later – as Ireland reached the quarter-finals for the first and only time.