The Republic of Ireland have been blessed with some terrific footballers over the decades, many of whom have earned iconic status with their heroics at World Cups and European Championships.

But what of the talented players who never got the chance to grace a major finals, through ill luck, injury, or unfortunate timing?

We're asking you to help us choose a Republic of Ireland XI made up of the best players we've had who never played at a major international tournament. 

We've put together the shortlist of goalkeepers, but today we look at the full-backs. If you think we have omitted anyone, please contact us at

For a decade, Paddy Mulligan was a fixture at right-back for Ireland and while no major tournaments would come between 1969 and 1979, he was part of adventures to South America, first for the "Mini World Cup" in 1972 when the Boys in Green played in the Brazil Independence Cup and then for matches against the Selecao at the Maracana Stadium, Uruguay and most infamously, post-coup Chile, during the tour of 1974 at the start of John Giles' time in charge. 

Giles would bring the former Shamrock Rovers full-back to West Brom in 1975 after a memorable spell with Crystal Palace that featured Mulligan scoring a famous brace against a beleagured Manchester United in a 5-0 win three years earlier. 

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The opening goal that day was a lovely placed finish after an over-lapping run beyond the United left-back and the second was a striker’s finish after finding himself in space in the box. 

But Chelsea is where Mulligan is most remembered at club level, featuring in a successful era and was part of the squad that won the Cup Winners Cup final in 1971, coming on in the drawn game against Real Madrid. 

Stephen Carr (2) stand for the national anthem before a qualifier against France

Stephen Carr was one of the leading right-backs in the Premier League in the late '90s and early 2000s during his time at Tottenham Hotspur.

He also made the PFA Team of the Year in 2001 and 2003 in an era when Irish internationals (Carr, Gary Kelly and Steve Finnan) remarkably took that position in the season-ending XI for four seasons in a row between Gary Neville and Lauren’s respective PFA recognition in ‘99 and 2004. 

One thing he shares with Mulligan is a memorable goal against Man United. That strike in the 1999-00 season saw the Dubliner put the icing on the cake for Spurs as he made his way down the right before firing an unstoppable long-range rocket into the proverbial postage stamp of the net in a 3-1 win. 

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An Ireland regular at that point after progression through all age grades and a debut senior cap against Sweden in April 1999, Carr had amassed numerous competitive appearances during the ill-fated attempt to qualify for Euro 2000. 

And when the 2002 World Cup qualification phase began, he again featured regularly, appearing in the first six qualifiers up to the June 2001 game against Estonia. As we all know, the Boys in Green would qualify. 

Unfortunately, injury - something which would blight the next part of his career and spells at Newcastle and Birmingham City - would prevent Carr from going to Korea and Japan where he would have been a likely starter. 

A knee injury had already derailed his club season and while a visit to knee specialist Dr Richard Steadman had given him and Mick McCarthy hope that he might recover in time to go to the World Cup, by April 2002 he knew that dream was over. 

While he did win further Ireland caps in later years, unfortunately it coincided with a period when qualification was not forthcoming. 

Similarly, to Carr, injury would prevent Jim Beglin from going to a major tournament and ultimately it would also prematurely curtail his playing career. 

Jim Beglin

side in 1986, the left-back had also cemented his place at international level after Eoin Hand had given him his debut in 1984. 

As he recently recalled, he was still highly thought of by Jack Charlton upon the latter’s arrival in 1986, earning a recall to the squad for the early Euro 88 qualifiers after missing the Iceland Triangular Tournament. 

By the time he featured in a friendly in Poland at the end of that year, he had won 15 Ireland caps. 

However, the cruel twist of fate intervened early In 1987 when a challenge by Everton’s Gary Stevens resulted in a badly broken leg. 

It coincided with Ireland qualifying for a major tournament for the very first time, but the long road back meant Beglin had to sit out Euro 88.

As the former defender recently told RTE Sport, Charlton did invite him to attend the famous qualification win over Scotland at Hampden a month after the leg break but Beglin declined as he did not want to get in the way. That gesture does go to show how valued he was by the Irish management at the time. 

While he did return to occasional club action at the end of ‘80s, his international career was over by then, meaning he would also miss Italia 90. 

"That’s the biggest regret that I’ll ever have in my career that I missed out on that whole spell from ‘88 right through to ‘94," Beglin told us recently. 

Stephen Kelly (l) in action for Fulham

Unlike Mulligan, Carr and Beglin, Stephen Kelly was part of a major tournament squad. The former Tottenham, Birmingham and Fulham right-back had played at the highest level in the Premier League from 2003 to 2013 and had also helped Fulham reach the Europa League final in 2010.

Inclusion in the Euro 2012 squad had been just reward for a steady international contribution including in the qualifiers for the tournament and he had also had experience of wearing the captain’s armband. 

However, while Ireland’s Euro 2012 campaign essentially ended before it could gather any moss, Giovanni Trapattoni did not even call upon Kelly for the dead rubber final match against Italy despite his contribution to qualifying. 

Unfortunately, by the time Euro 2016 came around, he had already played the final game of a 39-cap international career. 

If you take a look at the Manchester United team that started the 1968 European Cup final, both full-backs were Irish internationals in the shape of Tony Dunne and Shay Brennan

Tony Dunne featured on the left flank for United over a span of 13 years and well over 500 appearances on the books at Old Trafford up until 1973, also winning two leagues and a FA Cup along with the European medal. 

At international level, he would win 33 caps from 1962 until 1975, winning the Irish Footballer of the Year in 1969, the same year he would captain Ireland for the first time. 

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Similarly, the late Brennan also had a long and illustrious career for Man United, qualifying for the Boys in Green by the parentage rule in 1965 caps and earning 19 caps over the next five years. 

While he is also noted for playing up front at times, primarily Cork-born Noel Cantwell featured at left-back between 1953 and 1967, while representing West Ham and Manchester United at club level. 

He would enjoy league success at the latter and also captained United to FA Cup success in 1963 in a team that also featured Dunne and John Giles. 

The late Cantwell also captained his country regularly and weighed in with 14 international goals which has him ranked eighth on the all-time list of Republic of Ireland goalscorers. 

You can check two of those goals here when he featured up front:

Such was his sporting prowess, he was also a noted cricketer.


Selections: Stephen Carr and Jim Beglin