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Liverpool and Irish legends ensure Sean Cox will never walk alone!

By NIALL SCULLY

ANGLESEA Road. Quite a charming stretch. With many elegant houses. There’s Old Belvedere on one side. The Merrion cricket club on the other.

Down past the RDS. The home of Leinster. The Dublin Horseshow where Eddie Macken and Boomerang kept coming back.

The evening traffic was busy. And down by the Dodder, there was also a river of people heading to Lansdowne. Mick McCarthy’s Republic of Ireland X1 against Kenny Dalglish’s Liverpool Legends.

Some supporters had a pit stop at Paddy Cullen’s. When Paddy was there, his sure hands pulled the best pint in Dublin.

The stream of people continued down the Shelbourne Road. Joe Corcoran used to work here in the Post Office. Across the way stood the Mercedes-Benz showrooms. Joe knew better than anyone that to become a top Manchester United footballer you needed more than a good engine.

People were sitting outside cafes, enjoying the grub. The sun was shining. That Friday feeling was swirling all around Ballsbridge.

And as The Aviva came into view, there was the scent of the burgers from the Chip Vans. And the voices calling out: “Anyone there for the hats and scarves. Get your colours of the game.”

The programmes were selling briskly. The music filled the stadium. Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh’s golden voice was on the big screen. Talking about Seán Cox.

A little documentary on the story of Liverpool was shown. And then it was announced that Tommy Smith had died.

They used to say that Tommy practiced his tackling on lamp-posts. Bob Paisley quipped that “Tommy just didn’t tackle players. He broke them up for scrap!”

But as Kevin Keegan would relate, there was far more to Tommy than that. They didn’t get on at the start, but they became good friends.

Keegan tells the story of the white boots. He was offered 3,000 pounds by the manufacturer to wear them. He asked Tommy for advice. Tommy was the Liverpool captain.

Tommy told him not to bother. They wouldn’t suit the all-red strip of Liverpool.

Before the next game in the dressing-room, Kevin saw Tommy lacing up a pair of white boots. “What’s going on,” he asked the iron-man of Merseyside.

“Kevin, I couldn’t well turn down 1,500 quid at this stage of my career!”   

There was a minute’s applause for Tommy. And a minutes silence to remember Hillsborough.

You’ll never Walk Alone was played. And sung with gusto. Hands and scarves in the air. The President, Michael D Higgins, and Seán Cox’s family met the players.

Kenny Dalglish was talking to Ian Rush. They played football with all the rhythm of Simon and Garfunkel. Or as they said about Toshack and Keegan, Batman and Robin.

Robbie Keane was back in his favourite house doing what he does best. Seizing on crumbs. He went close.

Robbie Fowler got a huge ovation. And Ray Houghton and John Aldridge too. Ronnie Whelan kept it simple. As ever.

In his suit and glasses, Mick McCarthy looked like the local headmaster. Yet this was the Tommy Smith-like centre-half that put the best of the number 9’s off their cornflakes.  

Big Niall got one of the warmest welcomes of all. His measured header popped off the bar at the Lansdowne Road end. The cross had just hung in the air. And Niall watched every spin of the ball. He didn’t rush the header. Or try to force it. He met it perfectly on the forehead and gently guided it towards the goal. He would have loved to have seen the net ripple. And so would the crowd.

They rose to acknowledge Seán Cox when he came up on the big screen watching the match. Seán, a Dub, living in Dunboyne. Who brought his love of sport with him.

His life is all about giving. Making things better for those around him. Giving young people the platform of sport. Helping to see them flourish as people. They could have no finer role model.

Irish sport came together to help him on his journey. A long, hard road. For Seán and his family.

 The old ground was full of cheer. It would have lifted his spirits.

There were many stars. But the biggest one of all was up in the stand looking on.

And if the circumstances were different, Seán would have been first through the door.

When the crowd were singing, ‘You’ll never Walk Alone, they were singing it for Seán.

THIS is the latest in a series of Football Articles by STRIKERONLINE’S NIALL SCULLY

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