Sunday 4 December 2016

Holland's screamer and Wembley heroics: Irish football's 30 greatest moments: 25-21

Published 06/06/2016 | 14:47

We are just one week away from Ireland's Euro 2016 opener against Sweden at the Stade de France, where Martin O'Neill's men will have the opportunity to add to the Boys in Green's memorable history at major tournaments.

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Ireland took part in their first major tournament 28 years ago, but the journey towards Euro 88 qualification began two years earlier in 1986.

Independent.ie is looking back on some of Irish football's greatest moments of the last 30 years and today, we are bringing you the second five from the list. We hope you enjoy looking back on some amazing times for Irish football.

Read more: The Croker roar and Zinedine Kilbane - Irish football's 30 best moments from the last 30 years: 30-26

25. Matt Holland scores a screamer vs Portugal (2001)

Ireland travelled to Portugal for their second group game of the 2002 World Cup qualifying campaign with their confidence high following a 2-2 draw against the Netherlands in Amsterdam in the opener. However, that result was tinged with regret after Mick McCarthy's men surrendered a two-goal lead in the game's final 20 minutes and their good start was expected to come to an end in Lisbon in Ireland's next outing.

The Portugal side were riding high as their golden generation reached the peak of their powers, with midfielders like World Player of the Year Luis Figo and Rui Costa helping them to a semi-final appearance at Euro 2000.

That quality looked to be manifesting itself on the scoreboard when Sergio Conceicao put the home side ahead 12 minutes into the second half.

But with 15 minutes to go, Matt Holland picked up the ball 30 yards out and chose a perfect time to score his first international goal, finding the net with a sumptuous strike that left Vitor Baia diving in despair as the ball hit the net.

It earned Ireland a priceless point in Lisbon and amazingly, meant that the boys in green had come away unbeaten from the two toughest games of their group.

And not for the last time on their World Cup odyssey, Matt Holland would help Ireland to a crucial 1-1 draw after a stunning shot from long-range.

24. Ireland pick up a priceless win at Hampden Park (1987)

A win against Scotland would be paramount if Ireland were to retain any reasonable chance of progressing to a first ever major tournament.

Jack Charlton’s starting XI featured a pair of trios from Manchester United and Liverpool, and it was a moustached man from the latter cadre who would decide the tie.

Now famous for his inimitable brand of punditry, Mark Lawrenson was a vital cog in the dominant Liverpool side of the time.

Pushing forward on what looked like a whim, ‘Lawro’ stumbled into the Scottish danger area before hooking a fine finish past Jim Leighton. For roughly the next 82 minutes Ireland defended their precious lead, and the victory would prove a potent catalyst as they went on to qualify for Euro 88 as group winners.

 

23.  Ireland bombard the England goal at Wembley (1991)

Few teams do the credible draw better than Ireland and while as a nation we sometimes celebrate non-wins a little too heartily, there is no doubt that the point earned by Jack Charlton's side against England at Wembley in 1991 was one worth remembering.

Despite not getting the win the team deserved during their Euro 92 qualifying campaign, Ireland thoroughly out-played the home side in a performance that encapsulated Charlton's 'put 'em under pressure' style as the men in green hunted down their opponents and hassled them into mistakes at every opportunity.

Unfortunately for the travelling fans, England took a lead they had scarcely deserved after Lee Dixon's shot deflected past Packie Bonner and into the Ireland goal.

But rather than knock Ireland's confidence, the unfortunate concession simply spurred the side on to play with even more intensity as they relentlessly bombarded the England goal with shots and crosses as they desperately searched for an equaliser.

Twenty minutes after the England goal, a cross from the right was delicately turned into the bottom corner by Niall Quinn, as Ireland justly drew level.

What followed was a performance that Ireland could really be proud of and celebrate although had Charlton's men been able to find a winner it would have almost certainly qualified them for Euro 1992.

Some observers even say it was the best the team ever played under Big Jack.

22. John Aldridge finds the net against Mexico... after embarking on the mother and father of all rants

John Aldridge's amazing contribution to this entry from USA 94 can best be summed up in two parts.

Part 1 - he embarks on one of the all-time great f**k-laden tirades, directed at an officiously interfering FIFA blazer in a yellow hat who won't allow him to come onto the field against Mexico in a crucial group game.

Part 2 - Aldridge then almost immediately heads home the goal that ultimately allowed Ireland to progress to the last 16.

After Ray Houghton's outrageous winner against Italy, Ireland were 1-0 down against Mexico as John Aldridge prepared to come on. After Tommy Coyne came off, a nefarious official delayed Ireland's attempt to introduce Aldridge, with Mexico scoring in the process.

This caused Mt Aldo to erupt and thankfully, TV cameras were there to capture every glorious expletive.

"F**k off you! You twat! You d******d!  F**k off! You f**king cheat!"

Aldridge's anger was just the start of the drama though, as the striker fed fellow replacement Jason McAteer on the right wing, before continuing his run into the box, and powerfully guiding the cross to the net after losing his marker.

Ireland's subsequent 0-0 draw with Norway in the final group game meant that the team progressed to the last 16 on goal difference, so Aldridge's goal, and his curses, proved the difference in the end.

21. Ireland rout Estonia to reach Euro 2012

Ireland had never had the best luck in playoff draws before Estonia was pulled out of the bowl to face Giovani Trapattoni's side in the two-legged qualifiers for Euro 2012.

The Netherlands, Belgium, Turkey and Iran were the previous teams paired with Ireland to decide who would advance to major tournaments, and not one of them would be regarded as a soft touch.

So after so many difficult assignments over the years, it was probably overdue that Ireland got a bit of fortune when drawing the eastern European minnows ahead of the European Championships in 2012.

The alternatives of Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro would have all been tougher and although most Irish fans were already celebrating qualification for the summer tournament, Ireland still had a job to do.

Thankfully for supporters, Ireland were all but assured of a place at Euro 2012 after a dominant 4-0 win in Tallinn gave Trapattoni's side an unassailable lead heading into the home game at the Aviva Stadium.

Ireland looked in control from the opening minute in the away game and didn't have to wait long to make their breakthrough, with Keith Andrews heading home after a quarter of an hour.

Three second half goals followed as Jon Walters and Robbie Keane (2) wrapped up a famous win that propelled Ireland to their first major tournament since the 2002 World Cup.

 

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