Charlie Hurley was born in Cork and to Ireland's delight never forgot those grassroots in a marvelous two decades at the top level of the English game. With his family "Big Charlie," then a babe, emigrated to London shortly after the end of Word War Two.
His professional football career began with Millwall who then languished in the English Third Division. But it was not long before Hurley became a cult figure at the Den with his inspiring performances as an old-style centre-half.
Altogether Hurley played 105 games for the London club and then made his international debut against England in a World Cup qualifying tie at Dalymount Park on May, 19, 1957. That was just a mere eleven days after Hungary had been thrashed 5-1 by England at Wembley.
England, under captain Billy Wright, knew that a draw would be good enough to see them through to the finals in Sweden the following summer. The record 47,600 Dalymount Park crowd were in full voice when Alf Ringstead (Sheffield Utd.) had Ireland in front after just three minutes.
Then came calamity in the final seconds of the game when Bristol City's John Atyeo scored a controversial equaliser after a cross from Tom Finney. In the immortal words of legendary RTE broadcaster Phillip Greene - "The silence could be heard at Nelson's Pillar".
After that international baptism of fire, Hurley went on to to represent his country on 40 occasions. The Republic have had may great central defenders in more recent years - Paul McGrath, Mark Lawrenson, Kevin Moran, David O'Leary and Mick McCarthy.
Big Charlie stands up there with them and is still rightly regarded as one of the Sunderland greats on his adopted Wearside. He always exuded confidence for club and country - the main reason why he was appointed player/coach and captain just prior to the appointment of Mick Meagan as Irish supremo.
Like so many great players around him at that time, Hurley was always proud to pull on the green jersey of his country on a Sunday afternoon at Dalymount - just 24 hours after an English First Division game and then after that an often stomach-testing ferry trip over the Irish Sea to Dun Laoghaire. The results at international level, compared to recent times, left something to be desired. Bur the commitment of Hurley and his generation will never be forgotten.