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Dublin finale fills Walsh with nostalgia

Published: Tuesday 17 May 2011, 9.37CET
Ex-Republic of Ireland and FC Porto striker Mickey Walsh cannot wait for the game against SC Braga, saying: "I never thought I'd be going to watch Porto play a European final in Dublin."
by Aidan Fitzmaurice
from Dublin
Dublin finale fills Walsh with nostalgia
Mickey Walsh talks fondly of his six years as a Porto player ©Sportsfile
 
 
Published: Tuesday 17 May 2011, 9.37CET

Dublin finale fills Walsh with nostalgia

Ex-Republic of Ireland and FC Porto striker Mickey Walsh cannot wait for the game against SC Braga, saying: "I never thought I'd be going to watch Porto play a European final in Dublin."

Former Republic of Ireland forward Mickey Walsh believes he is some kind of lucky charm for his former club FC Porto.

I never thought I'd be going to watch Porto play a European final in Dublin. It's nostalgic for me, to be going 'home' to Dublin to see the team where I had the most successful part of my career.
Mickey Walsh

"I left Porto in 1986 and within a year they were champions of Europe – I don't know if that had anything to do with me leaving," Walsh told UEFA.com as he prepared to visit Dublin to see his erstwhile employers play SC Braga in the UEFA Europa League final.

"I wasn't there the night Porto won the European Cup in 1987 [against FC Bayern München] as I was still playing, for another club in Portugal. But I have been to see their other finals. I was in Gelsenkirchen when they beat Monaco in 2004.

"I was also in Seville when they beat Celtic in 2003 in the UEFA Cup. I have only missed one of their finals and that was the big one, the European Cup win in 1987, so I really hope I get to see them win another final."

Wednesday's UEFA Europa League showpiece at the Dublin Arena is suffused with nostalgia for Walsh. He won six of his 21 caps for the Republic of Ireland at Lansdowne Road, the previous incarnation of the final venue. Indeed, his international career peaked there when he scored the only goal in a 1-0 win against the Soviet Union in a FIFA World Cup qualifier in 1984.

Now aged 56 and working as a players' agent, Walsh is back in the Irish capital expressly to support Porto, his club from 1980 to 1986 – "I'd love to see them win," he said. The Dragons are still in his heart, though he has close links to both managers.

"I am cheering for Porto without a doubt," said Walsh. "It's great Braga are there in the final, it's some achievement for them to reach a European final. I have a link with them as well because Domingos Paciência was a player at Porto when I was there; he was in the junior team when I was just about leaving the club. He was starting his career as mine was winding down. He's a lovely lad and it's great to see him do well.

"I also know Porto boss André Villas-Boas personally. My brother Stephen worked for Chelsea for a long while when José Mourinho was there. He got to know Villas-Boas very well and Villa stayed in my house a few times when he was at Chelsea and before he went off to make his career as a coach.

"I was texting him over the weekend, I texted him when Porto won the championship. They have had an amazing season. They won the league with [five] games to spare, didn't lose any and only drew three times – an amazing record.

"There are still a lot of links with Porto," explained Walsh. "The president is still the same man who was there in my playing days, Jorge Nuno Pinto da Costa. The club have the same director of football and I think the same kit man and masseur. I have always tried to say in touch."

Walsh began his playing career with Blackpool FC in 1973 and made his Ireland debut against Norway in Dublin in 1976 – the striker was born in England but his father, Stephen, was from County Mayo so he qualified through the parentage rule. Walsh then had disappointing spells with Everton FC and Queens Park Rangers FC before a surprise move to Porto.

Walsh initially questioned if he was up to it. He recalled: "Their stadium was fantastic. I thought: 'Are you sure it's me you want?'" He need not have worried: an instant success, he achieved a career highlight when he featured as a substitute in Porto's 2-1 defeat by Juventus in the 1984 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup final in Basel.

"I have great memories of that run in 1984; it was a big deal for us because it was our first European final," recalled Walsh, who ended his playing days in Portugal with SC Salgueiros and SC Espinho, and later made headlines when his wife gave birth to quadruplets, in what was believed to be the first case of non-identical test-tube quads.

"To reach another final and for that to take place in Ireland, that's special for me as a former Ireland player. I never thought I'd be going to watch Porto play a European final in Dublin. It's nostalgic for me, to be going 'home' to Dublin to see the team where I had the most successful part of my career."

Mickey Walsh is part of a select group of Republic of Ireland players who have played in a UEFA final:

Mickey Walsh (FC Porto), John Giles (Leeds United AFC), John Dempsey (Chelsea FC), Joe Kinnear, Chris Hughton, Tony Galvin (Tottenham Hotspur FC), Steve Heighway, Mark Lawrenson, Ronnie Whelan, Michael Robinson, Jim Beglin, Steve Finnan (Liverpool FC), David O'Leary, Eddie McGoldrick (Arsenal FC), Damien Duff (Fulham FC), Shay Brennan, Tony Dunne, Denis Irwin, John O'Shea (Manchester United FC), Kevin Sheedy (Everton FC).

Last updated: 17/05/11 12.48CET

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