Sunday 25 March 2018

Going to the last day in good times and in bad...

Valletta -- November 15, 1989

A sluggish start to the qualifying campaign for Italia '90 saw Ireland fail to score in their first three games, drawing with Northern Ireland and Hungary and going down 2-0 to Spain.

If there was a silver lining to the cloud, it was that all three games were away from home and as Malta were their other group opponents, the three most difficult away games were behind Jack Charlton's team.

Those two Spain goals were to prove the only two conceded by Ireland in the campaign as successive home wins against Spain (1-0), Malta (2-0) and Hungary (2-0) left Ireland needing to beat Malta away to be certain of qualification.

Two John Aldridge goals, one in either half, secured the three points, although because Spain beat Hungary 4-0 on the same night, even defeat to Malta would have seen Ireland qualify.

Istanbul -- November 13, 1991

PITCHED in a group with England, Poland and Turkey with only one to make the finals, qualification for Euro '92 could hardly have started better for Ireland as they romped to a 5-0 home victory over Turkey. This was followed up by two 1-1 draws with England the second of which, in Wembley in March 1991, is still regarded by many as the most outstanding performance by an Irish team.

In both matches England took the lead before Ireland drew level and the group came down to how the two teams fared against Poland and Turkey.

While the crucial game was probably at Lansdowne Road when Ireland were held 0-0 by Poland, they also surrendered a 3-1 lead away to the same opposition to draw 3-3.

Still, Ireland could have qualified on the final night by beating Turkey away if Poland could master England. Two goals from John Byrne and one from Tony Cascarino saw Ireland fulfil their half of the equation, but England secured the point they needed to qualify in a 1-1 draw.

Belfast -- November 17, 1993

ON one of the most poisonous nights of international football ever witnessed on this island, Jack Charlton's team secured the draw they needed to qualify for USA '94.

It had been a good campaign for the Republic, winning seven of their qualifying games and scoring 18 goals along the way in a group which included Spain, Denmark, Northern Ireland, Lithuania, Latvia and Albania.

The only defeat had come at home to Spain after a blistering start saw the visitors take a 3-0 lead inside 27 minutes. Denmark had beaten Spain and drawn with Ireland in Copenhagen and had put themselves in position to qualify thanks to a draw in Dublin. Ireland needed at least a draw in Belfast and had to hope that Spain would beat Denmark.

With the atmosphere at boiling point, Jimmy Quinn gave the North the lead in the 73rd minute, but Alan McLoughlin's equaliser three minutes later, combined with a 1-0 with for Spain in Seville saw Ireland advance on goals scored.

Basel -- October 11, 2003

A POOR qualifying campaign for Euro 2004 finished with a whimper in a very disappointing final game away to Switzerland.

Mick McCarthy paid a heavy price for opening defeats away to Russia and at home to Switzerland when he was replaced in the hot seat by Brian Kerr. And almost fanatical optimism for the new regime seemed to be well-founded when Kerr began his tenure with a 2-1 away win in Georgia.

The group's other side, Albania, were next up and Ireland at least avoided defeat away before beating them and Georgia in successive home games to move into second in the group and keep their qualification hopes alive.

But a 1-1 home draw against Russia before that final-night 2-0 defeat in Basel saw Ireland finish a poor third in the group.

Dublin -- October 12, 2005

IN a group with France, Switzerland, Israel, Cyprus and the Faroe Islands, Ireland made a promising start to their qualifying campaign for the 2006 World Cup with home wins against Cyprus and the Faroe Islands and draws away to Switzerland, Israel and France.

However, they failed to build on that good start and surrendered a two-goal lead to draw at home with Israel before being beaten in Dublin by France through a wonderful strike from Thierry Henry.

Even so, victory over Switzerland in the final game would have been enough to secure second place in the group, but the match finished in a tame scoreless draw in what was to prove Brian Kerr's final game in charge.

Fergus McDonnell

Sunday Indo Sport

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