It’s 25 June, 1990. An entire nation – football haters included – hold their collective breath. Pints tremble in clammy hands and Irish pubs and sitting rooms, for once, are quiet. We’re not going to make it to a World Cup quarter final. Are we?
Republic of Ireland V Romania
Ireland’s goalkeeper, Donegal man Packie Bonner wasn’t used to the kind of heat that was bubbling in Genoa’s Stadio Luigi Ferraris on 25 June 1990. When the game ended in stalemate, and penalties beckoned, he was out of the kitchen and into the fire.
Eight penalties taken, and neither goalkeeper has saved once. The Romanian, Daniel Timofte, steps up, shoots low to Bonner’s right. Instead of net, the ball hits a huge pair of Burtonport hands. It’s 4-4.
If Ireland’s David O’Leary scores, we’re in the World Cup quarter-finals.
Cue pints on the floor, granny in your arms, Dad in tears and the dog leaping at the TV.
You’ll never beat the Irish
When it comes to football supporters that know how to enjoy themselves, the Irish have earned a unique reputation. Whether enjoying themselves with the locals or singing out The Fields of Athenry, they have endeared themselves to nations all over the globe, from Italy to Kazakhstan.
But it was during their last journey, to follow the team through Euro 2012 in Poland, that they overdid themselves. In an interview with the Irish Examiner newspaper, Damian Zalewski from the Poznan City Promotion Office described the effect the Irish fans had on the city and the tournament:
“Our reaction to the Irish can be seen all over the city on every Polish person’s face,” he said. “The Irish brought such a positive atmosphere to us. It was 10 crazy days. We were expecting and hoping for large crowds. But we weren’t expecting just how great the Irish were.”
By the end of that tournament, UEFA’s president, Michel Platini announced that he would present a special award to Ireland’s fans to thank them for their contribution. Meanwhile, a German commentator was left speechless by the Green Army’s rendition of The Fields of Athenry. Their team were losing 0-4 to Spain at the time.
For Irish football fans, supporting your team isn’t only about the winning. It’s about the passion.
Should Lady Luck be on Ireland’s side, the fans might find themselves travelling to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup.
If they do, there’s a certain Gathering that might prepare them.
The Irish World Cup
Welcome to the Irish World Cup and welcome to one of Ireland’s busiest places of learning, University College Dublin. This rolling campus sitting on the edge of Dublin's city centre will, this June, become a joyous focal point for the Beautiful Game.
A World Cup Village, visits to the Guinness Storehouse and the Aviva Stadium (home of the Republic of Ireland football team), and plenty of live nightly entertainment have marked this Gathering out as a footballer’s dream.
But what about the actual football?
We’re getting to that.
As the leading amateur football tournament of 2013, and the largest since the Paralympics 2012, there’s no doubting that this is serious. Teams from all over the globe will take pit their skills on UCD’s natural grass playing pitches from 7-9 June. That means a lot of football – each team will play at least six games.
Who knows, you might even witness your very own Packie Bonner moment?