Vincent Hogan: Ireland's ghosts haunt return to Slovakia
Published 11/10/2010 | 05:00
Out of the stony soil of Irish football mishaps, a few names carry unusual purchase. They emerged as twilight assassins, largely inconspicuous figures who came plunging into the nation's story with sudden and plenary force.
Think Goran Stavrevski, October '99 in Skopje. Think Abas Suan, March '05 in Tel Aviv. And, for this week specifically, think Marek Cech, September '07 in Bratislava. You probably won't have a mental picture of their faces but three men certainly will. Mick McCarthy, Brian Kerr and Steve Staunton all felt that cold breath in the rib-cage that the concession of critical injury-time goals can visit upon a football manager.
In Staunton's case, Cech's late, late strike at the austere old Stadion Pasienky all but drew a line under his bid to guide Ireland to the Euro '08 finals. It turned what would have been a revitalising 2-1 victory into a demoralising 2-2 draw and those leaked points left Ireland needing a victory against the Czech Republic four days later in Prague.