Friday 27 April 2018

The perilous play-offs: Ireland's final hurdle

Thierry Henry consoles Richard Dunne in 2009
Thierry Henry consoles Richard Dunne in 2009
Damien Duff is escorted off the pitch in Turkey
Goals from Belgium's Luis Oliviera and Nilis were too much for Ireland, who succumbed to a 2-1 defeat, with Ray Houghton’s goal coming in vain
Ireland keeper Pat Dunne can only watch as Spain’s Jose Ufarte scores the goal to end Ireland’s hopes of qualifying for the 1966 World Cup Newsdesk Newsdesk

Ireland's defeat in Poland on Sunday night means they now face the daunting prospect of tackling a two-legged play-off to qualify for Euro 2016 in France.

History is against them: five of their seven previous attempts at making major finals via the play-off route have ended in heartache.

Here, we looks back on that record for the Boys in Green.


Syria's withdrawal from qualification led to a play-off with Spain after both sides had won their home fixtures. Jose Ufarte's first international goal for the Spaniards was enough to seal a 1-0 win in Paris, booking their place at the tournament in England.


Another chance to feature in England was missed when Jack Charlton's side lost 2-0 to Holland at Anfield. A budding young striker by the name of Patrick Kluivert scored both goals as the Dutch progressed and Charlton's reign as Ireland boss drew to a close.


Denis Irwin's early strike in the home leg was cancelled out by Luc Nilis as the Belgians took a 1-1 draw back to Brussels.

There, goals from Luis Oliviera and Nilis were too much for Ireland, who succumbed to a 2-1 defeat, with Ray Houghton's goal coming in vain as substitute David Connolly was sent off late on.


Away goals would be the undoing of Mick McCarthy's side this time around as Tayfur Havutcu's late penalty at Lansdowne Road drew Turkey level after Robbie Keane had opened the scoring.

Against a background of anger and recriminations over the training facilities afforded to the respective teams, the second leg in Bursa ended 0-0 to send Turkey on to Belgium and Holland for the finals.


Only a superior goal difference saw Portugal top their qualifying group ahead of Ireland, who were plunged into the play-offs again despite taking four points off Holland.

Iran were their opponents and they finally ended years of hurt as Ian Harte and Keane struck to give McCarthy's men a 2-0 lead to take to Tehran.

With skipper Roy Keane missing from the squad. Ireland endured a tense night but Yahya Golmohammadi's stoppage-time strike was not enough to deny the visitors their place in Japan and South Korea.


Unquestionably the most memorable of Ireland's long history of play-off disappointments.

Giovanni Trapattoni's side lost 1-0 at home but drew level in the Stade de France courtesy of Keane, only to see William Gallas score a controversial extra-time winner.

Thierry Henry provided the cross for his team-mate but had controlled the ball with his hand before doing so. The offence went unseen by the officials and it was enough for France to qualify for South Africa, leaving the Irish at home once more.


Unlike in previous years, Ireland all but sewed up qualification in the opening leg, this time winning 4-0 against nine men in Tallinn. Keith Andrews and Jonathan Walters struck for Trapattoni's side before Keane bagged a brace, meaning the 1-1 draw at the Aviva Stadium in the return leg was more than enough for them to reach the finals in Poland and Ukraine.

Irish Independent

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