Liverpool Football Club and its Irish connection is historically a very important facet of the club. Cultural and geographical ties between the city of Liverpool and Ireland are centuries old. Historically, the ferry from Liverpool to Dublin and vice versa was the major link between the two islands. Thousands of Irish people emigrated to work in Industrial Age Liverpool.These emigrants formed a vibrant Irish community in the Liverpool area. One of those Irish emigrants, John McKenna became the very first manager of Liverpool Football Club.
Liverpool Football Club and its Irish Connection
McKenna was a guiding force in the early Liverpool years in the Lancashire League. It would not be unfair to compare the importance of his tenure with the later influence of Bill Shankly. Under McKenna’s leadership Liverpool would enter the Football League and become second division champions in 1894.
In 1912 and now serving as Liverpool Chairman, John McKenna made one of Liverpool’s greatest signings. He became aware of the precocious talents of a young Belfast born goalkeeper Elisha Scott. Following a tip off that Everton had considered the young Ulsterman too young to sign, McKenna pounced. The Reds quickly signed Scott and he went on to become their longest serving player (1912-1934).
Irish Contributions To Success
European Cup triumphs (now Champions League) are the barometer of success by which any European club is measured. Liverpool presently have won the competition five times (an English record). Four of the victories featured the influence of Irish players. Steve Heighway from Dublin played in the first two victories in 1977 and 78. Mark Lawrenson, Ronnie Whelan and Michael Robinson were all involved in the 1984 triumph in Rome. Steve Finnan, a superb right full back hailing from Limerick, collected his winners medal in Istanbul in 2005.
Liverpool all time greats would have to include the European Cup winning players as mentioned above. Ray Houghton, John Aldridge, Jim Beglin, and Steve Staunton would also be in the mix of Liverpool legends. It is of interest that Liverpool’s drought since last winning the top flight division in England, coincides with a dearth of Irish playing talent at the club.
Houghton, Whelan and Staunton are currently the last Irish Liverpool players to win a League winners medal. All three were in the title winning squad of 1989-90. Since that last championship winning team Liverpool’s Irish contingent has waned. Two notable Irish players appearing for Liverpool since that time are Mark Kennedy and Robbie Keane. Both of these Irish Internationals never realized their full potential in a red jersey. Keane was perhaps unlucky to only have six months at the club.
Irish contributions to Liverpool’s on the pitch history have been considerable. Irish based fans support of Liverpool has historically bordered on fanaticism. Steven Gerrard, Luis Suarez and Dirk Kuyt were overwhelmed by supporters as they launched the 2011 kit in Dublin. While the Reds Irish contingent on the playing field may have waned, the considerable support from Irish fans remains steadfast.