Liverpool Football Club (LFC) has always had a huge support in Ireland. Indeed, I wonder how many of those fans who marvelled at the miracle that was Istanbul and question Rafa's (current manager Rafael Benítez Maudes) tactics would know who the first manager of the club was. For those who don’t, and I suspect there are many, the answer was an Irishman - John McKenna from County Monaghan. Who was Liverpool’s longest serving player? Another Irishman – Elisha Scott from Belfast – a goalkeeper who manned the posts with distinction from 1912-34.
From an early stage, the Irish influence around the fields of Anfield Road was indelible. Through the decades it has continued with the likes of Heighway, Whelan, Beglin and Houghton gracing the pitch with much success, and further fuelled by the number of people who travel from this country to Anfield, and further a field, to watch their heroes.
John Hynes, a native of Nenagh, Co Tipperary, is a fervent Liverpool fan. He works as a journalist with Sports Media in the UK. He's also a key staff writer on the official weekly LFC magazine and the official Matchday programme. In many respects, he has the dream job.
Through interviews with former players, recollections from celebrity fans, opinions from the press box and countless stories and pictures from the Irish Kopites, there is no denying the special place that Liverpool FC has for many and the aura that surrounds Anfield Stadium.
The 1970s and 80s, saw much success for the club as the managerial baton was passed seamlessly from Shankly to Paisley to Fagan and then King Kenny. Irish players were central to the trophy haul in that period.
Beginning with Steve Heighway, who joined Liverpool after graduating from University right up to Champions League winner Steve Finnan, Hynes’ interviews are revealing in capturing the adrenalin that was an Anfield debut, European delight in Rome to the trauma that was Heysel and Hillsborough.
While the players also recalled their time on international duty for the Republic of Ireland, I felt that such musings were superfluous insofar as Euro 88 and Italia 90 have been well documented elsewhere in both print and television.
That said, some interesting titbits emerge in that Steve Heighway featured in an ant-smoking advert made by RTÉ in 1971; Jim Beglin was on the verge of joining Arsenal, before the then Gunners manager, Terry Neill, had second thoughts on the deal, leaving Liverpool to step in and an interesting account of how Michael Robinson became the highest paid player in Britain when he joined the club in 1980.
On a more serious note Steve Staunton recalls the disappointment he felt at being surplus to requirements in the Graeme Souness era and how the club lost its way during the reign of the former midfield general.
Many stories abound about that night in Istanbul. Indeed, fate decreed that the author would be on the island on Zanzibar on 25 May 2005. He recalls watching the match in a bar, where a number of bemused Americans were in attendance. Lifelong Liverpool supporter Chris de Burgh talks about the efforts in getting to Istanbul and his refusal to pay the obscene money for a hotel room. Now, you would have thought that the royalties from the ‘Lady In Red’ would have seen Chris, Rosanna and co easily sorted!
RTÉ sports presenter, Eamonn Horan recollects on his visit to Milan of all places to watch the final, while Colm ‘Gooch’ Cooper remembers rushing home from training to see Maldini open the scoring.
Other famous matches, whether its Michael Thomas breaking Liverpool hearts in 1989, or revenge of sorts being exacted with the 4-2 victory over Arsenal in the Champions League in 2008, come under the microscope.
From fans taking the cattle boat from Dun Laoghaire in the 1950s and 1960s, to the easier accessibility of today, the pilgrimage to Anfield is one that has always involved much camaraderie and no little excitement. The book captures the essence of that journey; the rush for tickets and how television whetted the appetite for having to be there in person.
'The Irish Kop' is a pictorial delight, full of many action shots of players, past and present and old Matchday programmes. A good starting point for the many Liverpool supporters who wish to find out that bit more about the club.