Wednesday 13 December 2017

Golden goals a feature of Irish teams in every decade

Ray Houghton with Charlie O’Leary in Stuttgart. Photo: Sportsfile
Ray Houghton with Charlie O’Leary in Stuttgart. Photo: Sportsfile
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

Goals are the life blood of soccer and if you're a Republic of Ireland fan, you can never see enough of them. Our teams, dating from the first venture as the Irish Free State in 1924, have scored over 400 goals in competitive matches and James McClean's spectacular finish in Vienna was a worthy addition.

            But was it the greatest Ireland ever scored? Not by a long chalk, simply because in every generation, our footballers have brought Irish fans to their feet hailing spectacular and important goals. Talent and skill shone through, even in the lean times.

Liam Brady on his senior international debut. Photo: Connolly Collection / Sportsfile
Liam Brady on his senior international debut. Photo: Connolly Collection / Sportsfile

The great goals were not all in World Cup or European championship games.

Friendlies were the mainstay for decades when we truly were minnows, with no automatic right to have cross-channel players available for competitive fixtures.

The World Cup and European championship qualifying regularly brought the Irish facing overwhelming odds in terms of the quality of the opposition. Here are some highlight moments that will never be forgotten.

v Sweden, Dalymount, 1959 

Debut day for the tiny 18-year-old Giles against the 1958 World Cup runners-up who had beaten England at Wembley the previous Wednesday. Giles latched onto a clearance, let the ball bounce and from 30 yards volleyed it to the net.

Robbie Keane
Robbie Keane

v England, Dalymount, 1964

Shelbourne's Strahan ran with the ball from the half way line, got past Ray Wilson and Bobby Moore, and slammed home a left-footed shot for a memorable goal against the 'Auld Enemy' who were building towards the 1996 World Cup under Alf Ramsey's guidance.

v USSR, Dalymount, 1974

Givens' hat-trick against the mighty Soviets in a Euro championship qualifier. Each of the goals displayed Givens' predatory instincts to the full from inside the penalty box. He finished off with a 70th minute header. A great victory.

v France, Lansdowne, 1977

Brady scored the only goal of the game against a top class French team. He chested the ball down at the edge of the area, sidestepped, and slipped the defenders racing out to clear their lines before slotting the ball home.

v USSR, Lansdowne, 1984

Michael Robinsons' lung-bursting run down the right wing, followed by a cross to Walsh asked questions of the then Blackpool striker. Could he control the ball under pressure, make a tiny bit of space and get in a good shot? He could, he did, and the Irish had a winning World Cup qualifier goal.

v England, Stuttgart, 1988

If you're talking pivotal moments in Irish soccer history this was it. Our debut in a major championship finals. England strong favourites, but that changed when Houghton's powerful sixth minute header flashed beyond English 'keeper Peter Shilton.

v N. Ireland, Belfast, 1993

Late substitute McLoughlin powered home a volley that required concentration, technical quality and determination to get the goal that clinched qualification for USA 1994.

v Holland, Lansdowne, 2001

McAteer popped up on the blind side of the Dutch defence and smashed in a powerful shot which enabled 10-man Ireland to claim a vital win en route to reaching the 2002 World Cup finals.

v Germany, Ibaraki, 2002

Robbie (pictured below) saved our bacon in dramatic fashion by latching on to Niall Quinn's header for a decisive equaliser in time added on for stoppages. The Germans were stunned as the Irish players and fans celebrated a marvellous World Cup moment.

v Italy, Lille, 2016

Courage, desire, and good old-fashioned Irish heart were the hallmarks of Robbie Brady's headed winner from Wes Hoolahan's precise cross to put us into the last 16 of this tear's Euro finals.

Irish Independent

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