Friday 23 February 2018

A little bit of history repeating

David Alaba’s goal is far from the first time Ireland have suffered misery because of a late strike. Ruaidhri O’Connor takes a look back at the infamous goals and what happened next

IRELAND fans suffered a variety of emotions as David Alaba's shot spun off Sean St Ledger and flew past David Forde, but none of them were unfamiliar to long-suffering supporters of the Boys in Green.

Every generation of Irish teams has experienced what Giovanni Trapattoni's side went through on Tuesday night. The country's football history is littered with late goals and despair.

It remains to be seen whether this team can rescue their World Cup qualification campaign after Tuesday's 2-2 draw against Austria, but the litany of last-minute heartbreaks have generally had drastic consequences.

From England silencing the Dalymount Roar to Wim Kieft ending the Euro '88 dream, from Skopje to Paris, heartache has haunted the Irish team.

Here is a sample of those dark days.

Ireland 1 England 1

World Cup qualifier, 1957

The Situation: Needing victory over the old enemy to finish the three-team group level, Ireland had lost 5-1 at Wembley the previous December. Despite that reverse, two victories over winless Denmark would have forced a play-off against the English.

The Goal: The clock had ticked by 90 minutes and 15 seconds when John Atyeo latched on to a Tom Finney cross and headed home to silence the 47,500 in Dalymount Park.

What was said: "That goal turned a golden day of glory into Stygian darkness for the crestfallen Irish. Never has a score been received in stonier silence." The next day's Irish Independent sums up the mood at a packed Dalymount Park.

The fallout: England failed to get out of their group in Sweden, as an Ireland team, shorn of Liam Whelan after his tragic death in the Munich air disaster the following February, failed to win a game in the qualifiers for the next World Cup.

Spain 1 Ireland 0

World Cup play-off, 1965

The Situation: Having beaten European champions Spain 1-0 at home and lost 4-1 away, Ireland faced a play-off in Paris to qualify for the World Cup in England. Inspired by John Giles, they were holding their own and heading for extra-time before the Spanish struck with 10 minutes remaining.

The Goal: A scrambling Noel Cantwell half-cleared Jose Pereda's cross into the path of Atletico Madrid forward Jose Ufarta and he broke Irish hearts with a neat finish.

What was said: The report in 'L'Equipe' read: "True, Spain did not steal their victory, but it is fair to say that Ireland by their courage and the quality of their play during certain periods, would equally have deserved to qualify for the finals."

The fallout: The gate receipts of £7,448 boosted FAI coffers, while the appointment of Mick Meagan as manager in 1969 signalled the end of the old selection process.

Belgium 1 Ireland 0

World Cup qualifier, 1981

The Situation: Eoin Hand's side had not been expected to reach the World Cup in Spain, but victories over Cyprus and Holland kept them in contention going into their trip to Heysel Stadium.

The Goal: After Frank Stapleton had a goal controversially disallowed, the Belgians were awarded a disputed free-kick. Rene Vandereycken's effort came back off the bar and, with goalkeeper Seamus McDonagh stranded, Jan Ceulemans struck.

What was said: "I have only one word to sum up the refereeing – disgraceful," Hand said. "I cannot think of any reason for that goal being disallowed only for the referee seeing a Belgian player lying on the ground."

The fallout: Hand's side could not recover from their Brussels disappointment and, despite a draw with Holland and a win over France, they could not qualify for the finals in Spain.

Ireland 0 Holland 1

European C'ships, 1988

The Situation: Ireland needed a point in Gelsenkirchen to reach the Euro '88 semi-finals after beating England and drawing with Russia. Paul McGrath hit the post in the first half, but a fine defensive performance looked like earning Jack Charlton's side a historic place in the last four.

The Goal: With eight minutes remaining, McGrath cleared the ball towards Ronald Koeman, who returned it with a volley that spun to Wim Kieft, who headed home with Marco van Basten in an offside position.

What was said: "I just wish it was a good goal and then we would have said 'Yes, the Dutch were the better side and they finally managed to score.' This has been a great experience. I have made a few mistakes that I won't make again." – Jack Charlton.

The fallout: Holland won the European Championships, while Ireland came home to a heroes' welcome and built on their displays in Germany to reach the quarter-finals of the 1990 World Cup.

Macedonia 1 Ireland 1

Euro 2000 qualifier, 1999

The Situation: Ireland had given away a 95th-minute goal to Davor Suker in Croatia, much to the frustration of Mick McCarthy (left), but they had the safety net of a final game against Macedonia. Leading 1-0 thanks to Niall Quinn's goal, they looked set for Euro 2000.

The Goal: In the fourth minute of injury-time, Alan Kelly's save led to a corner and the Irish defence parted for Goran Stavreski to crush Ireland's dreams with a bullet header.

What was said: "It was disgusting. It's one thing to celebrate a goal but what we saw here was a hell of a lot different. It was obscene. In all my years involved in international football, I've never seen anything like it. Unbelievable." Goalkeeping coach Packie Bonner reacts to Stavreski's celebrations in front of McCarthy, who was unpopular in Macedonia due to the famed 'I had a Macedonia' bib following Ireland's previous visit to Skopje.

The fallout: Yugoslavia won the group and Ireland were drawn against Turkey in the play-offs. Having drawn 1-1 in Dublin, they lost out on a finals place on away goals on a fiery night in Bursa.

Israel 1 Republic of Ireland 1

World cup qualifier, 2005

The Situation: Ireland travelled to Tel Aviv on the back of draws in France and Switzerland and victories over Cyprus and the Faroes. Clinton Morrison opened the scoring and Brian Kerr's side looked set for a decent away win.

The Goal: As the clock ticked towards injury-time, Ireland got deeper and deeper and a lay-off to Abbas Suan saw the midfielder launch a daisy-cutter that beat Shay Given from 30 metres.

What was said: "It was disappointing to lose it so late considering we controlled the game," said Irish boss Brian Kerr. "But everybody knew it was going to be difficult here and we are still unbeaten in the group. The group is wide open and there will be plenty of twists and turns to come."

The fallout: Kerr was right, but it was bad news for the former St Pat's manager, whose reign headed downhill after Tel Aviv. His side threw away a two-goal lead against the Israelis at home, before Thierry Henry's goal in Dublin and defeat in Switzerland ultimately ended the World Cup dream as Ireland finished fourth in the group.

Ireland 2 Italy 2

world cup qualifier, 2009

The Situation: World champions Italy were in control of the group when they arrived in Dublin for the penultimate match, Sean St Ledger's goal three minutes from time had Croke Park on its feet with history within touching distance.

The Goal: Ireland survived for two minutes before Italy broke and Vincenzo Iaquinta fed Alberto Gilardino, whose first-time effort sent Shay Given the wrong way and Ireland into a play-off against France.

What was said: "This lesson will be a great example for us. When you lead with three minutes to go, with a bit of experience we could have won." Giovanni Trapattoni utters some prescient words.

The fallout: The Italians went on to have a terrible tournament at the World Cup in South Africa, Ireland never got there after more late drama.

France 1 Republic of Ireland 1

world cup play-off 2nd leg, 2009

The Situation: Having lost 1-0 in Dublin, Ireland needed an unlikely result in Paris to reach the finals in South Africa. After a poor display in the first leg, Trapattoni's side gave the performance of his regime, with Robbie Keane levelling the tie on aggregate.

The Goal: Having made it to extra-time, an edgy game seemed to be heading to penalties until Florent Malouda's free-kick, floated behind Paul McShane, was controlled by Thierry Henry's hand and the striker squared for William Gallas who scored.

What was said: "All European people saw the situation. I am sure that, if the referee had asked Henry, he would have admitted to the handball. I would prefer to go out on penalties than this. I am sad because the referee had the time to ask the linesman and Henry." – Trapattoni points the finger of blame firmly at Henry.

"I will be honest, it was a handball. But I'm not the ref. I played it, the ref allowed it. That's a question you should ask him." – Henry admits his crime.

The fallout: Ireland couldn't recover and an indignant nation was left wondering what might have been. Henry's name was forever sullied and France imploded in South Africa.

Irish Independent

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