Mark Lawrenson was among the most stylish and elegant central defenders in Irish football history - but such was his versatality that almost half of his international caps were won in midfield roles for respective managers John Giles, Eoin Hand and Jack Charlton.
It was former Irish 'keeper Alan Kelly Senior, then on the coaching staff of Preston North End who first tipped off Giles as to Lawrenson's eligibility to play for Ireland as his mother had been born in this country. Giles reacted immediately, awarding the 19-year-old Deepdale youngster his first cap in the scoreless draw with Poland at Dalymount Park on April 24, 1997.
During Giles time as coach, Lawrenson, who had moved on to Brighton, made most of his appearances either in midfield or at full back though he did enjoy occasional outings at centre half. That meant that the dream partnership of David O'Leary and Lawrenson was rarely employed.
When Hand took over from Giles in 1980, he too persisted with the ploy of playing Lawrenson in midfield. It was a tactic that paid immediate dividends for the new boss with Lawrenson scoring an 84th minute winner in Hand's first match in charge - a 2-1 victory over Holland at in the World Cup qualifier at Lansdowne Road on September 10 that year.
Liverpool boss Bob Paisley than signed Lawrenson for the Anfield club for £900,000 in 1981. During seven years at the club, the player won nine major medals, the highlights of which were the 1984 European Cup and the 1985/86 League and Cup double.
After missing out with Hand in qualification to the 1982 and 1986 World Cup finals, Lawrenson's finest hour in an Irish shirt came at Glasgow's Hampden Park in a vital European Championship qualifier on February 18, 1987.
Jack Charlton's team won 1-0 with Lawrenson scoring the only goal of the game after six minutes following a quickly taken free kick by his Liverpool team-mate John Aldridge. Bursting through the middle, Lawrenson held off a challenge by Richard Gough and then shot low into the corner of the net past 'keeper Jim Leighton from 15 yards.
Sadly, even before Ireland had qualified for the European finals in Germany the following summer, Lawrenson's career was ended by an Achilles tendon injury. He thus joined an honourable list of Irish players who missed out on the chance of playing in a major World or European finals.