The joy of following irish soccer
Frustrating as it can be at times for any irish person who has been behind the irish soccer team for the past 20 years it has been a rollercoaster ride..... Jack Charlton, Paul McGrath, Ronnie Whelan, Frank Sheedy, Roy Keane, Mick McCarthy are but a few of the great names we have embraced over the years. And who will ever forget Ray Houghtons goal against Italy.....those were the days. The 1990 world cup was probably one of the most memorable experiences for any die hard irish soccer supporter but what of the current irish team. Being away from home i have followed the current campaign online and they seem to be holding there own so far but will they qualify or will we all be dissappointed????
Following the first ever qualification to a major tournament in 1988 Ireland went to Italia 90 in festive form. And what was even better was their inclusion in a Group with England. Ireland's first match at a World Cup finals competition.The English were seeking revenge for their surprise defeat by the Irish in the opening group match at Euro 88. Once again Bobby Robson's English team was expected to beat Ireland and his players underlined that by taking an early lead through an eight minute goal from Gary Lineker. Ireland came out stronger in the second half and fought hard for a result. This came in the 73rd minute when Kevin Sheedy drilled home an equalider.
Realistically Eqypt were the weaker of the three sides Ireland would meet and thus was a must win game. This however was not to be Irelands night. After having more of the play and some good chances they had to settle for a second draw of the campaign. This led them to the final group game needing at least a draw to progress to the knock out stages. The opposition were the Netherlands who were the reigning European champions and who had beaten Ireland at Euro 88. the dutch got off to the better start and Ruud Gullit had the ball in the net after only 10 minutes. This led to even more pressure and but for the brilliant Packie Bonner in the Irish goal Ireland would have been further behind. As in the England game, Ireland game out fighting in the Second half and started to creat chances. A long ball from Bonner in the 71st minute was not dealt with by the Dutch defence and the Mighty Niall Quinn slid the ball home for the third draw of the campaign.
With England registering the only win in the group stage they finished top. Ireland and the Netherlands finished on Identical statistics and the only way to separate them was to draw lots. This left Ireland second to England and meeting Romanis at the next stage.
Romania was a tight and tense affair. Romania marksman Georgi Hagi gave Packie lots to do but after 90 minutes both teams were at stalemate. Extra time could not part them either so a penaulty shootout was to follow.After the first 8 penaulties it was still level at 4 - 4. Only Daniel timofte and David O'Leary were left to shoot. Timofte was up first and he did not strike the ball with any great power but still left Bonner with work to do in saving. Up stepped O'Leary and sent the Romania Keeper the wrong way to send the Irish Team into the next stage and a showdown with the Hosts Italy.
Ireland started strong against Italy and laid down a marker when Andy Townsend left the great Franco Beresi on the floor with a tough tackle. Niall Quinn had an early effort saved by the Italian keeper. Gradually Italy began to take over the game and when Packie Bonner parried just before half time their was noting he could do to stop Toto Schillachi from scoring. Ireland fought on in the second half but were unable to get the breakthrough. This brought a fine campaign to an end and the country were proud of what the Team had achieved.