AFC Wimbledon skipper Alan Bennett left Cork City seven years ago to join Reading but the defender admits that not a day goes by without checking events back home.
“Every day, every single day. Anthony Elding has signed for Cork City this morning, John Caulfield has gone back there too. I’m always on the Twitter feeds having a look and keeping up to date. I’ve a few friends still playing down in Cork with the likes of Dan Murray.”
A 2006 League of Ireland winner with hometown club Cork City, Bennett laughs as he points out the Irish journalists do have one area they could brush up on.
“I follow a few of the Irish journalists but some of the banter out of them is pretty shocking. But seriously, everyday I’ll check out what’s happening back home.”
Bennett’s face lit up when quizzed about Ireland’s latest partnership between Martin O’Neill and fellow rebel Roy Keane.
“Brilliant. It’s absolutely brilliant. The buzz created around a nothing match against Latvia is incredible. I really hope it works out. I think it’s going to be fantastic, they have got the goodwill of everybody behind them. There will always be a few begrudgers. We would have taken Martin O’Neill on his own but when you put Roy Keane in with Martin it’s absolutely fantastic news. Being a Cork man myself I’ll be backing him to the hills!”
Former Shelbourne man Wes Hoolahan was named in Martin O’Neill’s first Republic of Ireland XI, another source of enjoyment for Bennett.
“It was great to see another former League of Ireland man in Wes Hoolahan on the pitch against Latvia. Kevin Doyle and Shane Long are another two, there’s plenty of talent there and if we can get it together there is the making of a great team. Trapattoni was very set in his ways and it wore thin with a lot of people towards the end.
“I was in Poznan myself and the buzz around the square before the Croatia game was something special.” said Bennett about the famous atmosphere created by the Irish support in Poland.
“It was time for something new”, a statement echoed by the vast majority of Irish football fans as Trapattoni’s reign came to an end in September.
In an age of multi-coloured football boots, 32 year old Bennett is happy to don a no nonsense pair of old school black boots as he leads the AFC Wimbledon defence.
“I think that’s showing my age a bit. I’m still wearing Adidas World Cup, I remember Deckie Daly, John Caulfield and John Flanagan all wearing World Cup boots as it was standard down in Cork. Sometimes I put them on these days and a couple of the younger lads would be asking me what they are.
"There are all sorts of colours these days, I’ve even seen pink make a couple of appearances on the pitch this season. I couldn’t be kicking the ball into the stands wearing pink boots.”
The League of Ireland has a history of losing players to pastures new in the UK and beyond, Alan Bennett is another example of how players make the move but it’s seldom any of the leagues stars forget about their time in the League of Ireland.