Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Ireland 1, Estonia 1 (5-1 to Ireland on aggregate). Memories of Euro '88 come rushing back...

I remember what I was doing when the Republic of Ireland qualified for the European Championships in November 1987. I was hurtling down Stapleton Hall Road near Finsbury Park, London, on my Kawasaki GT750. I had the radio on – the aftermarket FLF fairing fitted contained such a luxury – and was listening to the Bulgaria v Scotland match on Radio 5.

If Bulgaria won, they would finish one point above Ireland, clinching qualification to Euro 88 in Germany. What happened, however, was Scotland’s Gary MacKay scored in the 87th minute. Ireland had thus qualified for a major tournament for the first time ever. I’m sure anyone walking down Stapleton Hall Road that evening would have been startled by my incredulous roar of celebration. One of those moments you never forget.

As readers will know, yours truly is hardly the most patriotic of people. The only time I come near to it is when football is concerned; and that is more about wishing well for the beautiful game in Ireland over the institutional distraction of the GAA… an organisation that forbade its followers even attending “soccer” matches up until the 70s. It only finally allowed the game to be played at Croke Park in 2005, when the ban on "foreign games" was lifted. (As an aside, soccer is the only form of ‘football’ that is played primarily with the feet, not the hands, so is most deserving of the description).

To make things more difficult for the world’s most popular ball game, Irish schools tend to promote either GAA or rugby – at least that was the case in my schooldays. Where I attended, soccer only officially got a few weeks towards the end of the term. It was, however, the game of choice in the schoolyard all year round… a succinct commentary in itself.

So, nice to see Trapattoni’s men qualify for Euro 2012. It should be a nice boost for the game and maybe, who knows, even the country?

Altogether now - olé, olé, olé, olé…

Back to Gombeen Nation main page


Anonymous said...

Football brings back the memories, all right, GM. I'll never forget the pub in Hong Kong where, in June 1994, I drank and smoked and delighted to watch Ireland beat Italy 1-0 in the World Cup, and where I also, very soon, learned of the Loughinisland massacre. I could not stop thinking of those who were doing precisely as I had been doing, and what would be my thoughts and feelings at the instant when the door had been flung open as I watched and chatted and cheered, and rounds had started flying indiscriminately. Actually, I still can't watch association football without recalling it.


Ella said...

Hi GM, what's all this bonhomie? That's 2 posts in a row now where you've been waxing lyrical about the ould sod!!

john said...

we will not get very far with the long ball up the field football we play, but nice to see Ireland in the competition. I am sure Ryan Air are rubbing their hands will the killing they will make wil flights to Poland, I bet they will run flights to Ukraine.

Anonymous said...

The GAA don't promote football and don't lay claim to the term. They promote 'cluiche peile' a literal translation of which is 'a game of ball' (specifically a leather hide ball) - no mention of foot :)

It is also a bit disingenuous not to recognize the GAA as one of the the most successful amateur sports bodies in the world.

Neutral commentators had nothing but praise for the quality of the Croaker and were very impressed by the razmataz of an all Ireland day, given that, given that on Monday morning all the players go off to 9-5 jobs.

The Gombeen Man said...

Thomas, I remember that well. I was back in Ireland on "holiday" (I was living in London at the time) and had a great time with friends and family too rarely seen. Ray Houghton's wonder goal v Italy (take that Schillaci!!) was the source of considerable euphoria. Soon to be curtailed by the news of the atrocity at The Heights Bar.

Let's see how long this "bonhomie" lasts, Ella!

That's the thing, John... when they pass it around they look pretty good. What do you think of our midfield though? Bit of a weakness there, I wonder, when up against some seriously strong opposition? A side capable of playing good football through the middle. Mind you, we've played the likes of France and Italy without disgrace.

Anonymous said... lulz

The Gombeen Man said...

Great... thanks for that!

john said...

midfield,GM, weak in that department, agree when we pass it looks like decent footie but that is the snag, we are not consistent in keeping the ball. That said, I am sure they will give 100%. I was talking today with a man who goes every summer to Ukraine to work with the adi roche chernobyl project. He tells me that one of the venues is a bit to near for comfort to the disaster zone.

The Gombeen Man said...

If they can get over the radiation sickness they might do alright ;-)

I'm sure they will give it everything, and will do themselves credit. I'm looking forward to it, to be honest.

Wonder what Stephen Ireland thinks now? If he does.