life long pal | 

Paul McGrath pays tribute to ‘Ireland’s greatest kit man’ Charlie O'Leary on 99th birthday

‘He tells me he will be 99 next week, he doesn’t look a day over 70. Stay well and healthy Charlie’

Paul and Charlie

Neil FetherstonhaughSunday World

Paul McGrath has paid tribute to “Ireland’s greatest kit Man”, Charlie O'Leary, who is marking his 99th birthday next week.

The Legendary Republic of Ireland kitman first took up the role as an assistant to Ireland physio Mick Byrne in 1986, when Jack Charlton had taken over.

“I enjoyed every minute of it, but there's an awful lot of work involved - it's hard graft. If anyone thinks it's an easy job, they're sadly mistaken,” he later recalled.

Taking to Twitter, McGrath posted: “Great catch up with my life long pal Charlie today. He tells me he will be 99 next week, he doesn’t look a day over 70.

“Stay well and healthy Charlie,” adding, “Ireland’s greatest kit Man.”

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O'Leary, who retired in 2000, was honoured in 2020 in the 'Three' FAI International Awards, with a Special Merit for those who had made a significant contribution to Irish football

A former player, Charlie became a referee and officiated in the League of Ireland for more than 20 years and he oversaw the 1972 FAI Cup Final between Cork Hibernians and Waterford.

Involved with the Leinster Football League, Charlie acted as a Liaison Officer for international teams visiting Dublin for games before joining Jack Charlton's Republic of Ireland backroom staff as kitman.

Charlie was a key figure behind the scenes with the Irish team during the 1988 UEFA European Championships as well as the FIFA World Cup tournaments in 1990 and 1994.

FAI Interim Deputy CEO Niall Quinn, who played for Ireland when Charlie was kitman, said: "If Jack Charlton was the father figure for the Ireland squad from 1986 to 1995 then Charlie O’Leary and Mick Byrne were the two Irish Mammies who looked out for and looked after us all.

"I always think of Charlie and Mick as a pair and it is a pleasure to present him with this Special Merit award on behalf of the FAI and Irish football

"Charlie is such a special man. He was brilliant with us as players and he was brilliant have around us as players, always with a smile on his, always looking out for you, getting you up in time for training after a good night out and ensuring we had everything we needed to do our best for our country. I congratulate Charlie on this award, it is well deserved.”

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