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'I have a story to sum up the FAI' | Stephen Kelly on U21s mix-up

Eoin Harte
Eoin Harte

19:15 26 Oct 2019

Former Ireland international Stephen Kelly was on The Saturday Football Show and was discussing the best players he had ever come up against.

While Kelly had a long career at senior level, it was a game he played at U21s which gave him the toughest challenge of his footballing career.

“The toughest game I’ve ever had was against Frank Ribery. It was an U21s game for Ireland and I didn’t actually know anything about him.

“So I went into the game and I was captaining the U21s thinking, ‘Oh, who’s this guy?’ And oh my god. It was just relentless,” Kelly commented.

However, another U21s game stands out in Kelly’s memory, and not for the quality of opposition he faced.

“Listen I have a story that will sum up the FAI in one go. We had in the U21s, and god rest his soul, Liam Miller. I was put in advance.

“I was 18 or 19 and was put into the U21s, who were a few years older than me. We played against Germany. We beat them.

“Liam Miller was the best player on the pitch. He was absolutely outstanding. It’s when he was getting into that form at Celtic. He was just unbelievable.

“It turned out that Liam shouldn’t have actually been playing in the game because he was actually suspended and he’d never been told. He was called up for the squad.

“So he went and played them. And afterwards they realised that he shouldn’t have played, so they deducted the points off us and the game didn’t count,” Kelly said.

Coming up against Cristiano Ronaldo

As a senior footballer, it was five-time Ballon D’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo that secured the gong of the best player Kelly had ever played against.

“You go into games like that, when you’re playing against someone that you know is that good and you’ve got nothing to lose really.

“You just try to up your game as much as you can. Like, as a fullback, they’re the challenges you really love to take on.

“You want to put yourself against the best to see how you cope and how you do.

“You know, it went okay. I don’t think he actually scored in the couple of games I played in. So that can’t be bad,” Kelly said.

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