While many will be celebrating St Patrick’s Day in the pub tomorrow, we at Tranmere Talk felt it’d only be fair to commemorate a few of the Irish players that have walked out onto the Prenton Park turf over the years.
Since the club’s inception in 1884, there have been 44 Irish players contracted to Tranmere Rovers, (21 Northern Ireland, 23 Republic of Ireland) so read on as we go through our Top Five Irish players with help from the history books and our followers on Twitter.
Despite being born on Merseyside, Aldridge must go down as one of, if not THE best Irishman to have played for the Super Whites. History was made in his first season at the club, as he amassed a club record 40-goals in the 1991-92 season.
Aldridge’s return to Merseyside came as a surprise to many, more so with Tranmere being a second division club at the time. In an exclusive interview with Tranmere Talk reporter Joel Lampkin, Aldo talks through the thought process of signing for Rovers in the audio clip below.
The now 59-year old mentions how it would have been nice to get into the Premier League, and his goals for Tranmere were significant in the club’s rise under Johnny King as the side finished sixth in the Second Division in 1993, 1994 and 1995. On international duty with the Republic of Ireland, the striker amassed 19 goals from 69 games, putting him in joint-fourth place in the all-time record goalscorer list for The Boys in Green.
Despite not playing in the top flight again during his career, Aldo’s passion and desire to help take Tranmere to the top as both a player and manager was unprecedented.
Aldridge became the player-manager of the club in the 1995-1996 season, and eventually hung up his boots for good to focus on management in 1998. 174 goals in 294 Tranmere appearances helped him become the highest scoring British player in the post-war era, along with being the club’s second top goalscorer in history behind Iain Muir.
Liam O’ Brien
O’Brien may not have had the most spectacular of careers in terms of silverware, successes and electrifying moments but his best years were spent at Tranmere. The circumstances surrounding his move to Rovers were upsetting, as he was deemed surplus to requirements as Newcastle United rejoined the top flight.
The now 53-year old made 181 domestic appearances for Tranmere, scoring 12 times. O’Brien was a key figure under both Johnny King and Aldridge, as the Super Whites marched on through the nineties.
In terms of playing for his country, he stepped onto the international stage 16 times between 1986-1996. O’ Brien featured in Jack Charlton’s UEFA Euro 1988 squad, in what was The Boys in Green’s first ever appearance at a major tournament.
Looking online at the Total Tranmere forum, the defensive midfielder is someone that is often selected in members’ all-time Tranmere XI.
One of our Tranmere Talk Twitter followers, (@OpenAirEnd) regards O’Brien as his favourite Rovers player from Ireland, and with with plenty of reasons for it too.
Solid, consistent, great vision and particularly that half turn he always did before passing the ball.
— Open Air End (@OpenAirEnd) March 9, 2018
Having come through the youth ranks with Rovers, the Dublin-born midfielder turned professional in 1995 and went on to make 144 appearances during his first spell in White and Blue, scoring 14 times.
Mahon came very close to silverware success with Rovers, as Aldridge’s side lost 2-1 to Leicester City in the 2000 League Cup Final at Wembley. In that same year, the now 39-year old made his only two Republic of Ireland appearances in friendlies.
July 2000 marked a change for the player, as he moved abroad to Portuguese outfit Sporting Lisbon on a free transfer. The years that followed were rather up and down for him, as he failed to settle down a first team spot at many clubs.
Spells at Wigan Athletic (2004-06) and Burnley (2006-09) were better for him, as he made 47 and 59 domestic appearances for the two sides. Mahon eventually made the move back up to Merseyside in 2009, as John Barnes signed the midfielder on a three-year deal.
However, Mahon’s second crack of the whip with the Super Whites didn’t go to plan. Les Parry handed the midfielder 16 domestic appearances in two years, which was ultimately down to injury problems.
Mahon terminated his contract in 2011, and Parry claimed ‘it was the hardest decision I’ve had to make since taking over as manager’.
Despite a bitter-sweet end to his playing career, Tranmere fans still hold him in high regard. Brendan Garner (@BrendanSWA1981) and Jamie Farrell (@Yami5trfc) are both big fans of the attacking midfielder.
Alan Mahon was the silkiest central midfielder I remember, closely followed by Liam O’Brien. Aldo doesn’t really count, no matter what his international caps say!
— Brendan Garner (@BrendanSWA1981) March 9, 2018
Aldo but my fav Alan Mahon
— Jamie Farrell (@Yami5trfc) March 9, 2018
Having failed to secure a first-team spot with Sunderland after their promotion to the Premier League in 1995-96, Kelly quickly found himself on the transfer list and Tranmere came calling for the striker, paying a fee of £350,000.
In his three seasons on Merseyside, Aldridge’s side managed three mid-table first division finishes. Kelly’s contributions in front of goal were fairly consistent throughout his time with Tranmere, as he scored 14 goals in his first campaign, six in the second and 15 in the third and final.
Kelly was appointed as club captain shortly after arriving at the club, and was a feature of Rovers’ 2000 League Cup run. Tranmere lost 2-1 to Leicester City at Wembley as previously mentioned in the article, though Kelly did get the only goal for Aldridge’s side on a disappointing afternoon.
Who is your favourite Irish player? Get voting in our poll below or via this link.
— Tranmere Talk (@TranmereTalk) March 12, 2018