Former Ireland international Paul McShane joined Nathan Murphy on The Football Show on Thursday.
Paul McShane played 33 times for Ireland.
Amongst those games was his debut, a very memorable performance against Jan Koller of the Czech Republic. Because of his red mane and his style of play, McShane had many memorable moments in a green jersey. Some good. Some bad. But no moment lives on longer than that night in Paris.
McShane was the closest defender to Thierry Henry at the back post when he handled it. The ensuing goal knocked Ireland out of the playoff. Nathan Murphy asked McShane if he was over it 16 years on.
“No, not really,” McShane said.
“I don’t think I can ever be over that to be honest with you. Especially for the night that was in it, to qualify for the World Cup. And we were flying. We were flying at the time in the game. For something like that to knock us out is a sickener. Especially when you’ve got VAR these days.
“Everytime VAR comes on I’m thinking ‘Jesus, if only we had that.’
“Even to hear his name sometimes, it brings back memories. It was a tough one to take.”
Trust us, you’re not alone in that regard, Paul.
When Henry recently visited Ireland as part of the Belgium coaching staff, he was roundly booed by the crowd. In fact, the crowd booing him on the big screen appeared to energize the team on the field. Ireland put up one of their best recent performances in that game.
Henry will forever have a negative relationship with Ireland because of that moment.
But McShane being central to it must be more overwhelmed with emotion than most?
“That goal, it was just a tricky one because…first of all he handled it. Which you’re not allowed do. If the referee said before the free kick was taken ‘Listen, we’re going to play Gaelic for the next five minutes’ then I might have done something different, but I wasn’t expecting him to catch the ball effectively twice to keep it in play.
“Two lads go up for a header. I’m expecting them to miss it, which they did. Then it bounced awkwardly around waist height. I’m thinking I can’t really do anything here. If I slash at it, it It could end up anywhere.
“So it was a difficult one to deal with.”
Ireland were underdogs in that game and that qualifying campaign. The team and the nation rightfully feels aggrieved, but as McShane notes, it wasn’t just the handball. FIFA brought seeding in for that round of playoffs. And while we can’t say for certain that it prevented Ireland reaching the World Cup, it was a huge factor.
“It was basically from the whole start of it when the playoffs got seeded. It was never seeded before, but there was a few big hitters in the playoff.
“There’s a bit of a bad taste in people’s mouth…and then for the handball to happen, it was blatantly, blatantly obvious what happened. For that to knock us out of the World Cup, it was a tough one to take. And it still is to be honest.”
I could not believe the patience of Liverpool fans – Henry Winter
Football on Off The Ball brought to you by Sky. All the football you love in one place across Sky Sports, BT Sport & Premier Sports.
Download the brand new OTB Sports App in the Play Store & App Store right now! We’ve got you covered!
Subscribe to OTB Sports’s YouTube channel for more videos, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter
for the latest sporting news and content.