Saturday 24 February 2018

My Italia '90 memories not all about Green Army

Manchester United and Scotland goalkeeper Jim Leighton in 1990
Manchester United and Scotland goalkeeper Jim Leighton in 1990

Michael McCarthy

When we decided to write about our World Cup memories this week, I found myself strangely gravitating towards one that really isn't all that clear.

In the summer of 1990, as Ireland lost its collective mind for the boys in green, our group stage games live for me only through the endless videos we've seen since and, of course, 'The Van'.

I do recall watching the Ireland v Romania, in Newbridge, having demanded, at five years of age, we stop the car to see the game on a trip from Dublin to Clare.

The game itself is obviously a blur. I was more than a little discombobulated by Packie Bonner wearing unfamiliar grey instead of yellow.

The main image that remains of the penalty shootout is the advancing attack of the Irish extended squad on poor David O'Leary as he kneeled on the penalty spot praying, my random favourite Irish player Gerry Peyton sticking out in his grey among the sea of green.

Strangely, though, what sticks with me most from Italia '90 is not the Ireland lunacy, but Scotland and their familiar World Cup travails.

Jim Leighton, the Manchester United goalkeeper who had just won the FA Cup, for some reason, captured my interest.

That most of that World Cup took place past my bed time seemed irrelevant.

Being constantly caught sneaking to watch the games on the small, barely functional, portable television upstairs didn't seem to get me in as much trouble as it might. Perhaps, even at that age, the addiction was obvious.

Later, there were tears when West Germany toppled my beloved Argentina. Football is a cruel, harsh game with no time for children's emotions. Get used to it kids.

Irish Independent

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