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Moran felt Irish progression lifted the pressure in greatest show on earth

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Former Ireland manager Jack Charlton

Former Ireland manager Jack Charlton

SPORTSFILE

Former Ireland manager Jack Charlton

Ireland's players felt the hand of history on their shoulders as they prepared for the nation's first-ever game at the knockout stage of a major finals, the meeting with Romania in Genoa.

TG4 will revisit the scene this evening with a broadcast in full of the second-round match at the finals of Italia '90, the Romania game coming four days after the 1-1 draw with Holland allowed Ireland to advance from the group stage.

"Today a new journey begins, it is one we have waited our entire lives for as footballers," Kevin Moran said in his matchday column with the Irish Independent.

"Much as we tried to relax over the past two weeks, an unavoidable burden hung over us. If we did not reach the second phase we knew that, ultimately, we would not be remembered with much affection from this World Cup.

"Now the pressure has been lifted. Our football from here on in should be seen as a celebration because we are now well and truly part of the greatest show on earth."

Moran was torn between seeing Romania as the dream draw and being over-confident about the relative unknowns.

"I have to admit they are the team we would have chosen to play next, but that doesn't mean it will be in any way easy," Moran added. "I watched them destroy Russia in their opening game two weeks ago and they topped an extremely difficult group to get here in the first place."

Romania were hampered by the loss of key man Marius Lacatus to suspension but it was 'same again' for Jack Charlton, who would name the same starting XI which drew with Holland. The manager was unconvinced by Ronnie Whelan's fitness despite a substitute appearance in the last group game.

"Ronnie did well when he came on against the Dutch but I don't think he could get through 90 minutes in conditions like this," Charlton said.

Romania's preparations for the game were completely overshadowed by events back home. Clashes between protesters angry at the pace of change since the revolution which unseated Nicolae Ceausescu six months earlier and state-backed militias had made Bucharest in particular a very dangerous place in June 1990.

Romania manager Emerich Jenei had even left their camp in Italy to return home to visit his 22-year-old daughter who had been injured in the protests, returning just before the meeting with Ireland.

"The players need to concentrate and I need to sort things out," he said, explaining his decision not to name his team in advance and to ban media from watching their eve of match training session.

  • Rep of Ireland v Romania, World Cup 1990, TG4, 7.30

Irish Independent