10 great Irish nights in Europe
With St Patrick's Athletic dreaming of a lucrative showdown against Celtic in the Champions League, Liam Kelly looks back at some memorable performances in which our local heroes took on some of the game's most powerful teams
Published 21/07/2014 | 02:30
The dream: A League of Ireland team qualifying for the Champions League Group stages. The reality: Champions St Patrick's Athletic have a chance of at least taking one more step in the right direction after their 1-1 draw away to Legia Warsaw in the Polish Army Stadium last Wednesday.
There's no guarantee the Saints can capitalise on their away goal after a plucky performance and a fine result, but we live in hope.
Ever since Shamrock Rovers became the first Republic side to embark on the European stage back in 1957, our clubs have battled away in Europe with moderate success.
The Rovers side of 2011 broke the mould by getting through to the Europa League Group stage and staying active in Europe until December that year.
Between 1957 and 2011, it wasn't all bad. In fact, the League of Ireland produced some great occasions and memorable performances.
This is my list of some of the most significant games played in the domestic league's European history. All of them commanded huge public interest, even if the results did not always turn out as hoped.
Shamrock Rovers v Manchester United, European Cup first round
First leg: Dalymount Park, Sept 24, 1957
Result: Shamrock Rovers 0 Man Utd 6
Memorable for: Many reasons, not least the poignancy of the Hoops facing the Busby Babes just months before the Munich Airport disaster which cost the lives of 23 people, including Dublin and Ireland's Liam Whelan.
It was also a historic occasion because Rovers were the first League of Ireland team to play in the recently inaugurated European Cup (now Champions League), which was first staged in season 1955-56.
On the night of the first leg, 25,000 people thronged Dalymount Park to see the famed Babes. There was massive novelty for the Dublin public in seeing this great side live.
United, however, were on a mission to win the European Cup, and they didn't permit any risk of an upset. Busby played his strongest side, including Bill Foulkes, Roger Byrne, Duncan Edwards, Whelan, and Tommy Taylor.
Paddy Coad's Rovers side did well to keep the first half score to 1-0, but eventually succumbed, with Whelan (2), Taylor (2), Johnny Berry and David Pegg getting the United goals.
Rovers performed heroically in the second leg, losing only 3-2, with goals by Maxie McCann and Tommy Hamilton.
Shamrock Rovers (first leg) – Éamonn Darcy; Mickey Burke, Gerry Mackey, Ronnie Nolan, Shay Keogh, Liam Hennessy, Noel Peyton, Paddy Ambrose, Paddy Coad, Tommy Hamilton, Liam Tuohy.
Shamrock Rovers (second leg) – Éamonn Darcy; Mickey Burke, Gerry Mackey, Ronnie Nolan, Ray Keogh, Maxie McCann, Noel Peyton, Paddy Ambrose, Paddy Coad, Tommy Hamilton, Liam Tuohy.
Shamrock Rovers v Bayern Munich, European Cup Winners' Cup.
First leg: Dalymount Park, Nov 9, 1966
Result: Shamrock Rovers 1 Bayern Munich 1
Memorable for: A stunning result against a Bayern side which boasted the talents of goalkeeper Sepp Maier, the great Franz Beckenbauer and the scoring machine that was Gerd Muller.
Rovers, at that stage, had become the cup kings in the League of Ireland, with three FAI trophy wins in succession already achieved. They had a strong, talented and experienced side and Bayern were surprised with the resistance Rovers put up on the night.
Dieter Koulman scored for Bayern in the 17th minute, but Billy Dixon inspired the famous 'Dalymount roar' when he equalised in the 61st minute.
The return leg brought Rovers agonisingly close to a famous victory in Munich.
Brenninger and Ohlhauser scored to put Bayern 2-0 up after only eight minutes. Astonishingly for the Germans, Rovers struck back with second half scores by Bobby Gilbert and Liam Tuohy. The Hoops were then on course to win on away goals.
Ex-Rovers, Chelsea and Ireland defender Paddy Mulligan commented: "With five minutes to go it was 2-2, but then Gerd Muller got the winner.
"It was heartbreaking because we were so close to getting into the European Cup Winners' Cup quarter-final. For part-time players, that was magnificent when you think of the team that Munich had," said Mulligan.
Bayern went on to win the Cup Winners' cup that season, beating Glasgow Rangers in the final.
Shamrock Rovers (1st leg) – Mick Smyth; John Keogh, Sean Core, Ronnie Nolan, Pat Courtney; Paddy Mulligan, Johnny Fullam; Frank O'Neill, Billy Dixon, Mick Kearin, Liam Tuohy.
Shamrock Rovers (2nd leg) – Mick Smyth; John Keogh, Bobby Gilbert, Ronnie Nolan, Pat Courtney; Paddy Mulligan, Johnny Fullam; Frank O'Neill, Billy Dixon, Mick Kearin, Liam Tuohy.
Waterford v Manchester United, European Cup first round
First leg: Lansdowne Road, Sept 18,1968
Result: Waterford 1 Manchester United 3
Memorable for: Where do you start? What a draw for the League of Ireland champions. United had finally claimed the Holy Grail by winning the European Cup at Wembley the previous May.
George Best, Denis Law and Bobby Charlton were in their prime, although a knee injury had deprived Law of playing in the European Cup final. The glamour tie generated huge demand for tickets, and the game was brought to Lansdowne Road.
A capacity 48,000 crowd packed the stadium and Denis 'The King' Law scored a hat-trick for Matt Busby's team. Johnny Mathews blasted home a superb goal for the Blues.
The second leg at Old Trafford was a 7-1 rout watched by almost 42,000 spectators. Denis Law got four goals, and Nobby Stiles, Francis Burns and Bobby Charlton stuck in the other three.
Al Casey beat Alex Stepney for Waterford's only goal in the 71st minute. The crowd generously applauded and cheered. Casey lay on the ground, arms wide, milking the moment for all it was worth.
Alfie Hale recalls: "Paddy Crerand came over to Al, and he went to pull him up. Al was having none of it. 'It's all right for you, you don't have to get up for a shift at six in the morning.'"
Waterford (1st leg) – Peter Thomas; Peter Bryan, Seamie Coad, Noel Griffin, Al Casey; Jimmy McGeough, Alfie Hale, Vinny Maguire, Johnny Matthews; John Morley, John O'Neill.
Waterford (2nd leg) – Peter Thomas; Peter Bryan, Seamie Coad, Noel Griffin, Al Casey; Jimmy McGeough, Alfie Hale, Paul Morrissey, Johnny Matthews; John Morley, John O'Neill
Athlone Town v AC Milan,
UEFA Cup, 2nd round
First leg: St Mel's Park, October 22, 1975
Result: Athlone Town 0 AC Milan 0
Memorable for: A classic David v Goliath clash.
Athlone Town had only gained membership of the League of Ireland in 1969. Their ground at St Mel's Park was compact, but very basic in terms of facilities. The comparison with the San Siro in Milan could not have been greater.
Town were managed by Amby Fogarty. They had overcome Valerengen of Norway in the first round, and now faced an AC Milan side boasting the talent of Italian World Cup goalie Enrico Albertosi, the hard, but skilful Romeo Benetti and a squad of top class players.
Unfortunately the great Gianni Rivera wasn't fit for the first leg. I was at the match, on a day off. The atmosphere was one of excitement at seeing these Italian stars up close and personal. Back then, there was no TV coverage of Continental soccer, bar the big European finals and semi-finals if a British team was involved, so this was special.
Nobody gave Athlone any hope at all, until they got that famous penalty after half an hour. John Minnock hit it low and to Albertosi's right, but it didn't have enough power and the Milan goalie saved. Credit to Athlone, they managed to salvage a 0-0 draw at home and kept Milan scoreless for an hour before succumbing by 3-0.
Athlone Town (1st leg) – Mick O'Brien; John Duffy, Andy Stephenson, Dougie Wood, Noel Larkin (Cyril Barnicle), Kevin Smith; Carl Humphries, John Minnock, Paul Martin (Joe Healy); Eugene 'Pooch' Davis, Terry Daly. Subs: for Martin; for Larkin.
Athlone Town (2nd leg) – Mick O'Brien; John Duffy, Andy Stephenson, Dougie Wood, Noel Larkin, Kevin Smith; Carl Humphries, John Minnock, Paul Martin; Eugene 'Pooch' Davis (Pauric Nicholson), Terry Daly (Joe Healy). Subs: for Martin; for Larkin.
Dundalk v Celtic,
European Cup 2nd round
First leg, Parkhead, Nov 6, 1979
Result: Celtic 3 Dundalk 2
Memorable for: A heroic result against the odds.
Celtic were managed by Lisbon Lion Billy McNeill. They were backboned by Danny McGrain, Tommy Burns, Roy Aitken, Murdo McLeod, Davy Provan and another hero of Lisbon '67, Bobby Lennox.
Dundalk manager Jim McLaughlin had assembled a seriously good side, with a blend of footballing nous and ability, and a teak-tough defence featuring Tommy McConville, Dermot Keely, Paddy Dunning and Martin Lawlor.
The problem was, most of the side were carrying injuries, and the game looked lost early on when Celtic scored twice. Roddy McDonald and George McCluskey put the Celts 2-0 up after half an hour.
Cathal Muckian got one back for Dundalk, only for Tommy Burns to score a third for the home side.
Celtic battered the Irish side in the second half, but were stunned by a magnificent goal from Mick Lawlor, who flighted a 40-yard chip past goalie Peter Latchford.
Two away goals and a home game to come at Oriel Park. I was at the match and, like everyone else, was riddled with tension as the game neared its end with the score 0-0 and Celtic very worried.
Tommy McConville came agonisingly close to scoring late in the match, but the ball eluded his outstretched foot.
"We could have beaten them in Parkhead because we created a lot of chances. We gave them a huge fright," said Martin Lawlor.
Dundalk (1st leg) – Richie Blackmore: Tommy McConville, Dermot Keely, Paddy Dunning, Martin Lawlor; Leo 'Pop' Flanagan, Terry Daly (Mick Lawlor), Liam Devine, Jimmy Dainty; Cathal Muckian, Sean Byrne.
Dundalk (2nd leg) – Richie Blackmore: Tommy McConville, Dermot Keely, Paddy Dunning, Martin Lawlor (Vincent McKenna); Leo 'Pop' Flanagan, Mick Lawlor (Terry Daly), Liam Devine, Jimmy Dainty; Cathal Muckian, Sean Byrne.
Bohemians v Glasgow Rangers,
UEFA Cup first round
First leg: Dalymount Park
Result: Bohemians 3 Rangers 2
Memorable for: Great display and a great win against a powerhouse of Scottish and European football.
Dalymount Park on that tension-filled night was no place for the faint-hearted, on or off the pitch. The hateful sectarian outbursts and rancour between some sections of both sets of supporters kept the gardai busy.
There was trouble inside the ground at half-time and later in the Phibsborough streets.
The Bohs players didn't let the atmosphere or off-field outbursts deflect them from their mission. Manager Billy Young had primed Bohs for a big display and they delivered.
Rangers scored twice in that first half, one by Ally McCoist and the other by Dave McPherson, but David 'Rocky' O'Brien got two goals, one from a header.
All the fear and angst surrounding the half-time disturbances dissipated – for Bohs fans at least – when skipper Gino Lawless raided forward on the left wing and smashed home a brilliant third goal soon after half-time. Rangers launched a series of attacks and Bohs' 'keeper Dermot O'Neill was kept busy as McCoist, McPherson and Davy Cooper put pressure on the defence.
Up front, O'Brien and the late, great, Jackie Jameson tormented the Rangers backline. Bohs held firm to claim a big scalp. Unfortunately, Bohs couldn't score at Ibrox Park in the second leg and lost 2-0 for a 4-3 aggregate in favour of Rangers.
BOHEMIANS (1st leg) – Dermot O'Neill; Dave Connell, Barry Murphy, Gino Lawless, Paul Power; Larry Wyse, Paul Doolin, David 'Rocky' O'Brien, Mick Shelly; Jackie Jameson, John Reynor.
BOHEMIANS (2nd leg) – Dermot O'Neill; Dave Connell, Barry Murphy, Gino Lawless, Paul Power; Larry Wyse, Paul Doolin, David 'Rocky' O'Brien, Mick Shelly; Jackie Jameson, John Reynor.
Cork City v Bayern Munich,
UEFA Cup first round.
First leg: Musgrave Park, Sept 17, 1991
Result: Cork City 1 Bayern Munich 1
Memorable for: The German giants get a huge fright.
Our old friends Bayern Munich were back in Ireland on a European mission.
No matter what era, Bayern always epitomised the best of German football, so it was with justifiable confidence that former international Jupp Heynckes brought his side to Musgrave Park where they faced Noel O'Mahony's Cork City.
The rugby ground was chosen as the match venue to accommodate the big crowd and the fans got their money's worth when GAA/Soccer star Dave Barry shot City into a 36th minute lead.
It was a sweet moment for Dave Barry and his team-mates, as Steffan Effenberg, or, as one wag dubbed him 'Effin Steffenberg' had been dismissive of the City players before the game.
"Effenberg certainly provided us with an extra incentive to go out and do something. He was an arrogant type, slagging us off beforehand," said Barry.
City had a formidable side, and the strike force of John Caulfield and Pat Morley was a goal machine in the home League
Effenberg managed to plunder a first-half equaliser, but the Germans were lucky to escape with a draw.
Barry came close to scoring a second goal from a free-kick in the second half and Pat Morley had a strong shout for a penalty when he was taken down. Bayern won the second leg 2-0.
Cork City (1st leg) – Phil Harrington; Liam Murphy, Declan Daly, Paul Bannon, Stephen Napier; Mick Conroy (Paul Coughlan), Dave Barry, Tony Kenneally, Ger McCabe; Pat Morley, John Caulfield.
Cork City (2nd leg)– Phil Harrington; Liam Murphy, Declan Daly, Paul Bannon, Stephen Napier; Mick Conroy (Paul Coughlan), Dave Barry, Tony Kenneally, Ger McCabe; Pat Morley, John Caulfield.
Bohemians v Aberdeen
UEFA Cup preliminary round
First leg: Pittodrie, Aug 10, 2001
Result: Aberdeen 1 Bohemians 2
Memorable for: A rare away win in European football for any Irish team.
Roddy Collins wasn't shy about his team's prospects when they were drawn with Aberdeen. The Dons had slipped from their glory years, but the SPL side still offered a big challenge to Bohs, particularly as the first leg was in Scotland.
Never short of confidence, Collins was bullish in advance of the tie, even though this was his first time to manage a team in Europe.
"If we can keep things tight in the first leg in Scotland then I'm sure we'll have a great chance of progressing.
"We've hardly lost a home game in Europe over the past 20 years – and even beat Rangers 3-2 in Dublin in the 1980s. It's a great draw for us and we have no fears about playing Aberdeen," he said at the time.
Collins ramped up the stakes the day before the game when he suggested that Dons boss, Ebbe Skovdahl, of Denmark, was possibly too old for the job, and that if it was time for a younger man to take over, he'd apply for the job straight away.
All part of the hype, but Bohs lived up to their manager's words and snatched a 2-1 away win with goals by Shaun Maher and Trevor Molloy (penalty).
Collins' team lost the home leg 1-0, but went through on away goals.
Bohemians (1st leg) – Wayne Russell; Robert Bowman, Shaun Maher, Dave Hill, Simon Webb; Dave Morrison (Tony O'Connor), Liam O'Brien (Glen Crowe), Kevin Hunt, Mark Dempsey; Trevor Molloy, Darren O'Keeffe.
Bohemians (2nd leg) – Wayne Russell; Robert Bowman (Tony O'Connor), Shaun Maher, Dave Hill, Simon Webb; Dave Morrison, Stephen Caffrey, Kevin Hunt, Mark Dempsey; Trevor Molloy, Darren O'Keeffe.
Shelbourne v Deportivo la Coruna, Champions League qualifiers
First leg: Lansdowne Road, Aug 10, 2004
Result: Shelbourne 0 Deportivo 0
Memorable for: A match that captured the imagination of the Irish soccer public.
Shels, under the guidance of Pat Fenlon, had been heroic in battling their way to the third qualifying round of the Champions League. The mighty victory against Hajduk Split meant the Reds became the first LOI club to reach the third qualifying round.
The match was switched to Lansdowne Road and 24,000 fans from all over Ireland flocked to see the plucky underdogs take on one of Spain's top sides.
They weren't disappointed. Fenlon's team kept a disciplined shape and frustrated Deportivo, who came close to scoring on a few occasions.
Wes Hoolahan, now with Norwich City and the Republic, was then a young midfielder and he created a good chance for Alan Moore, only to see 'Depor' goalkeeper Jose Molina block the chance.
Moore brought the crowd to its feet with a fine header in the 79th minute, but Deportivo's sub goalkeeper Munua dived to keep the ball out of the net.
In the return leg, at the Riazor Stadium, Shels got a couple of chances, but couldn't convert them to goals.
Just when the home supporters in the 25,000 attendance were getting restless, Spanish international Viktor pounced to get Deportivo's first goal with half an hour left for play.
Another Viktor goal, and a late one by Walter Pandiani put a gloss on the scoreline at 3-0, but the home crowd rose to applaud Shels at the finish.
Shelbourne (1st leg) – Steve Williams; Owen Heary, Dave Crawley, Jamie Harris, Dave Rogers; Alan Moore, Wes Hoolahan, Stuart Byrne, Ollie Cahill; Jason Byrne, Glen Fitzpatrick (Joseph Ndo).
Shelbourne (2nd leg) – Steve Williams; Owen Heary, Dave Crawley, Jamie Harris, Dave Rogers; Alan Moore, Wes Hoolahan (Jim Crawford), Stuart Byrne, Ollie Cahill; Jason Byrne, Joseph Ndo.
Shamrock Rovers v Partizan Belgrade, Europa League qualifiers, round 4
Second leg: Belgrade, Aug 25, 2011
Result: Partizan Belgrade 1 Shamrock Rovers 2 (AET)
Memorable for: Historic result that made Rovers the first LOI club to qualify for the Europa League Group stages. A night for heroes. A night that brought huge pride to the Hoops and to the whole league.
The odds favoured Partizan once they had escaped from the first leg in Dublin with a 1-1 draw and an away goal safely in the bag.
But Hoops' boss Michael O'Neill and his players refused to concede defeat, even after Partizan defender Volkov opened the scoring with a header from a corner after 30 minutes.
O'Neill brought on Karl Sheppard at half-time, switched to 4-4-2 from 4-5-1 and that opened up chances for Rovers.
Pat Sullivan's equaliser raised the stakes for both sides and, in extra- time, Sheppard was taken down for a penalty by Partizan 'keeper Ilic.
Stephen O'Donnell stepped up to smash home the spot-kick and Rovers held on for a marvellous win.
Manager O'Neill confessed he had harboured secret doubts beforehand, given the gulf in class and resources between the clubs. "If I'm honest, I always felt it would be a step too far.
"We've got this squad put together for €600,000. They probably had players out there who'll earn that in a year. I would doubt whether a club has been able to progress so far with that level of budget. But it's not just about budget. We have to try and raise the levels. And the players raised it to unbelievable levels.
"I would have been proud regardless of the result, because of how they played, but to have players give what they did for the club and each other, you can't ask for any more than that," he said.
Shamrock Rovers (1st Leg)– Ryan Thompson; Pat Sullivan, Craig Sives, Dan Murray, Enda Stevens; Gary McCabe (Stephen O'Donnell), Stephen Rice, Conor McCormack, Ronan Finn; Billy Dennehy Karl Sheppard), Gary Twigg (Ciaran Kilduff).
Shamrock Rovers (2nd leg) – Ryan Thompson; Pat Sullivan, Craig Sives, Dan Murray, Enda Stevens; Gary McCabe (Stephen O'Donnell), Stephen Rice, Chris Turner, Ronan Finn; Billy Dennehy Karl Sheppard), Gary Twigg (Ciaran Kilduff).