Humility is an undervalued characteristic. In a sporting world of Instagram nonsense, player apologies and all-around PR ops, your favourite footballer shouldn’t be the one who’s the most skilful, it should be the one who refuses to take a poxy selfie on a pitch.
John O’Shea has announced he’s bringing the curtain down on his 20-year professional career. O’Shea was the absolute antithesis of the modern-day footballer. He presented himself with incredible grace as well as possessing underrated skill levels. If any footballer has that much ability combined with humility, they’ll always appeal to the majority of supporters.
‘Sheasy’ did exactly that. For a country with as few highlights as Ireland has had, John has had some incredible moments throughout his career. Granted some of those have been with Manchester United, but hey…
We all want to get to this one early so you can rewatch. That much is obvious. It was April 2003, and a 21-year-old John O’Shea was drafted in to play left-back against Real Madrid. United were 3-1 down from the first leg and would ultimately lose 6-5 on aggregate after winning the second leg 4-3 – however, none of that actually mattered.
As United pressed for a goal, ambitious O’Shea went on a marauding run from his left-full berth. ‘Oh, here comes Luis Figo’, he thinks. The rest is history.
What's the bigger news today? The Royal Baby being born, or the fact that it's 15 years since John O'Shea nutmegged Luis Figo?
— Paddy Power (@paddypower) April 23, 2018
— Top Corner (@HITCtopcorner) November 4, 2015
So, you’re thinking: an unimportant moment in the grand scheme of things – United went out and nobody really benefitted from that moment. In fact, we’re fairly sure Figo’s got a voodoo doll of O’Shea in his wardrobe that he doesn’t tell his wife and kids about. But his highlight reel doesn’t end there. And even if it did, what a reel it would be.
John O’Shea only scored 15 times in all competitions for United, but one goal is remembered more fondly than most. If you don’t remember the game, Paul Scholes was sent off, Wayne Rooney went off injured and Liverpool dominated. You can guess what happens next. Yep, up pops Big John in added time to steal it. Gary Neville probably still holds a grudge. Jealousy is an awful disease.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) October 13, 2017
Next up – another stomper. United went to Highbury with the league title in the balance. Probably not the best time to experiment with your side, you’d think. Well, that’s not quite Fergie’s thinking. Nobody and I mean nobody, himself included, knew what to make of John O’Shea in midfield.
Darren Fletcher and John O’Shea in midfield. Sounds like a charity game in ten years’ time, but no – this happened in a huge game against Arsenal.
What could go wrong?
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) October 2, 2015
His durability was always a bonus. You could play him anywhere. Now, while people tend to use that phrase liberally, it was a genuine marvel to see him deputise for Edwin van der Sar at White Hart Lane. The Dutchman had broken his nose and United had used all three subs. O’Shea punched clear from a corner, won a foot race in a one-on-one and made a brilliant diving save to deny Irish teammate Robbie Keane late on.
— Full Time DEVILS (@FullTimeDEVILS) May 14, 2017
But no, no. We couldn’t leave you without an Ireland highlight. The thing with O’Shea is, he’s long been a stalwart in an Irish squad. His 116 caps say more about the man and the player than anyone moment ever could. Few players were as proud to represent their nation as the Waterford native was, but for his first 99 caps, he lacked that crowning glory.
Ireland went to Gelsenkirchen in October 2014, vying for Euro 2016 qualification. Germany were seen as certainties going into the group stages, and when Toni Kroos struck with 20 minutes remaining, it appeared to be game over for the Boys in Green.
Not. One. Bit. Of. It.
Ireland v Germany tonight, so an ideal time to relive this glorious John O'Shea last minute equaliser…https://t.co/ysmlPWnwLN
— Paddy Power (@paddypower) October 8, 2015
We’ll miss you, Sheasy. Thanks for the memories.