Saturday 20 July 2019

My Italia 90: When Haughey danced a jig

Irish fans at the World Cup Italia '90, Republic of Ireland v. England in Stadio Sant'Elia, Cagliari on June 11, 1990
Irish fans at the World Cup Italia '90, Republic of Ireland v. England in Stadio Sant'Elia, Cagliari on June 11, 1990
Kim Bielenberg

Kim Bielenberg

Memorable recollections from Italia 90.

Tommie Gorman

RTÉ reporter

I was reporting on the EU summit at Dublin Castle. Ireland held the presidency. As the penalty shoot-out against Romania was happening, the Taoiseach Charles Haughey was giving a press briefing to heavyweight newspapers about the architecture of Europe. I was following the match just outside. I pushed in a door and Haughey looked up, and said: "What's wrong with you?"

I said: "Turn on the television, Taoiseach." He put on the television and everybody watched the end of the penalty shoot-out. At that moment, when David O'Leary's goal went in, he realised the significance. He went out into the courtyard and danced a jig.

Jerome Reilly

Irish Independent reporter in Genoa on the day of the Ireland-Romania match

Deadline looming. Last penalty. O'Leary steps up. O'Leary for God's sake!! Has Jack gone mad?

An age to position the ball. A short run up. The net shimmers. The Irish press box goes mad. Roaring with joy. Ecstasy.

I turn around. Behind me Con Houlihan stands transfixed - taking in the spectacle.

Then the great man's shoulders start to shake and great gobs of tears fall down cheeks that might have been cut from Carrauntoohil sandstone.

Tears of joy.

Dave Fanning


That summer was fantastic, because it was the first time we were in the World Cup. Every Tom, Dick and Harry from the Irish team doing voiceover ads on the radio. I watched some of the matches on a huge screen in the RDS. The place went mental.

There hasn't been a street party atmosphere like it in Ireland since.

I went to the Italy match with Pat Kenny, Gerry Ryan and their wives. There were ministers there, and I had a meal with U2. I remember paparazzi jumping out of a hedge to photograph them.

Mary Mitchell O'Connor


I was running a children's clothes shop in Drogheda. We ordered our clothes months in advance, but we couldn't sell them, because every child wanted to wear the Irish jersey.

There was a special atmosphere. Strangers mixed with each other. Everybody went out to watch the matches.

The country went mad.

Gerald Kean


I remember the Italy game vividly, because I was there. Ireland were pressing and we seemed to stop them playing. Nobody expected us to win. There was an incredible atmosphere and Charles Haughey walked around the pitch at the end. I was at the Dutch game too and I was in the middle of a sea of orange, and there were two small pockets of green. I think it gave the country a lift.

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