Liverpool and Ireland legend Ronnie Whelan was in The Crossbar in Mullingar on Sunday.
Westmeath Examiner: What’s your best and worst memory playing for Ireland?
Ronnie Whelan: My best memory is obviously scoring a goal against Russia in 1988, the shinner. My worst memory is Italia 1990 when I broke my foot, I had played every qualifying game then I damaged my thigh and Jack Charlton wouldn’t play me.
WE: Who is your all time favourite player?
RW: Without a doubt it is George Best. Liverpool fans may be surprised to know that I was a diehard Manchester United fan. When I was about six, my dad brought me to see them play a friendly in Dublin. Because he was a professional footballer himself he was able to bring me into the dressing room before the match and that’s when I met Georgie for the first time. My biggest dream after that was to score a goal for Man Utd... and I did in the late ’80s. Unfortunately I was playing for Liverpool at the time and it was an own goal. So in a strange way I realised one of my ambitions.
WE: What do you think of the new Irish management team?
RW: I’m happy that they got it, two Irish lads. I spoke to Martin O’Neill at a golf day a while ago and he sounded like he was interested in the Irish job and nobody ever thought he would ever get Roy Keane Involved but I think they will make a good mixture. I watched Roy recently and he doesn’t want to be jumping out there as the manager. He wants to be next to Martin as the assistant. If they have the same passion they had when they played for their countries I think between the two of them they will do a great job.
WE: This year is the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster. What are your thoughts about it?
RW: You don’t expect to be involved in disasters as a footballer. I was at Heysel as well. When you’ve seen one disaster you think it can never happen again. Then Hillsborough happened. You’re looking at 25 years down the line and people are still trying to get justice. It was a horrible day for everyone and it’s coming to the stage where you want it to be sorted out and hopefully that will happen soon.
WE: What’s your best memory in football?
RW: In 1989 I led the team of Ian Rush and John Barnes up the steps of Wembley like I always wanted to do as a kid. As a personal memory that’s my favourite. As a professional it’s winning the European Cup in ’84 against Roma in Rome, their back yard. We won on penalties and I don’t think we got enough credit for it. Because it was penalties I think it was brushed under the table.
WE: You came to Mullingar to watch the last game of the season. What did you think of Liverpool’s performance?
RW: They weren’t great but they won the game. They did what they had to do but unfortunately West Ham didn’t do what we needed them to do. There was a touch of “worldcupitis” when players didn’t go for tackles that they would normally go for in case they got injured and missed out on the world cup.