Olé, olé, a winning green jersey


Shay Brennan’s 1960s football memorabilia will appeal to Republic of Ireland and Manchester United fans

FOLLOWING the Irish soccer team’s ejection from the Euro 2012 championship, memories of a rare victory over Spain 47 years ago have come to light. The jersey worn by Shay Brennan in his debut match for the Republic of Ireland has turned up and is to be sold at auction.

Born in England to Irish emigrant parents in 1937, Shay Brennan, nicknamed “The Bomber”, played with Manchester United alongside George Best in the 1960s.

He was the first player to take advantage of the so-called “Irish Granny Rule”, opting to play international football for the Republic of Ireland rather than try for the England team. He received his first international cap in a World Cup qualifier game at Dalymount Park on May 5th, 1965. A preview of the game in The Irish Times that day was headlined: “Ireland Can Upset The Form: Talent-laden Spanish Team face a tough test” and noted that that Brennan had “opted to take out Irish ‘citizenship’ papers in respect of his international career”.

Brennan and his team mates – including John Giles – achieved a famous 1-0 victory watched by a home crowd of 40,000. Spain’s goalkeeper, Jose Angel Iribar Cortajarena scored an own-goal in the 61st minute.

The long-sleeved, No 2 jersey worn by Brennan that night is part of a large collection of his memorabilia consigned to auction at Mealy’s and which will go under the hammer in September.

The items will be auctioned individually and auctioneer George F Mealy estimates that the jersey alone could fetch up to €1,500.

Among the other items is a Swiss watch inscribed “Shay – Best Wishes – George” which is estimated at €1,500-€2,000.

Manchester United visited Spain to play Real Madrid in the European Cup semi-final in 1968 and George Best borrowed Shay Brennan’s watch one evening to keep an appointment. According to Mealy’s, Best subsequently lost Brennan’s watch and bought him a replacement.

The boots worn by Brennan during Manchester United’s victory in the European Cup final at Wembley over Benfica later that year are estimated at €700-€900 and, a set of cuff-links and tie-pin he received in Australia during the club’s first world tour in 1967, €200-€300.

After he retired from Manchester United and the Republic of Ireland in 1970, Shay Brennan moved to live in Ireland and became a player-manager with Waterford United. He died in 2000 aged 63.