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A heroes' farewell

Duo don't deserve to leave under a cloud

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4 Jul 1994:  Portrait of Ireland goalkeeper Pat Bonner during the World Cup Second Round match against Holland at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida, USA. Holland won the match 2-0.  \ Mandatory Credit: Simon  Bruty/Allsport

4 Jul 1994: Portrait of Ireland goalkeeper Pat Bonner during the World Cup Second Round match against Holland at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida, USA. Holland won the match 2-0. \ Mandatory Credit: Simon Bruty/Allsport

4 Jul 1994: Portrait of Ireland goalkeeper Pat Bonner during the World Cup Second Round match against Holland at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida, USA. Holland won the match 2-0. \ Mandatory Credit: Simon Bruty/Allsport

Packie Bonner does not deserve to leave America, a victim of misfortune. Apart from his one nightmare moment against Wim Jonk yesterday, Packie has been superb throughout USA '94.

In fact, think about it, so has Terrv Phelan. Yet here the two of them stood on a sad Orlando evening being looked on by some as culprits.

Football at this level is beautiful and cruel. I suppose we had our beauty when we beat the Italians in Giants Stadium. Yesterday, the cruelty came in torrents.

If we can stand back briefly from the pain of losing, we should see that this was a successful tournament for Jack Charlton and his players. They faced a hugely difficult challenge in escaping from Group E, the Group of Death. Having done that, we knew anything else would be a bonus.

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Phil Babb of Ireland in action during the World Cup match against Holland played at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando. Maandatory Credit: Simon  Bruty/Allsport

Phil Babb of Ireland in action during the World Cup match against Holland played at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando. Maandatory Credit: Simon Bruty/Allsport

Phil Babb of Ireland in action during the World Cup match against Holland played at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando. Maandatory Credit: Simon Bruty/Allsport

I personally believed we would beat Holland yesterday because of all the stories of disharmony emerging from their training base.

To be fair to Holland, they started brilliantly yesterday and there were times when we seemed to be coming under such pressure, a heavy defeat was not beyond the bounds of possibility.

Overmars down the right and Van Vossen down the left kept cutting inside their markers, creating great corridors of space through the Irish defence. To their credit, they knew where we could be vulnerable.

With such pressure developing behind them, our midfield could never quite impose their will on .the game. This was critical. I fully expected Steve Staunton to be a revelation in America. But it was evident from the first day that he was uncomfortable in the unnatural heat.

Believe me, the loss of a fully charged "Stan" was a huge setback to Irish hopes of making a deep imprint on USA 94. In another climate, he might have proved our greatest weapon.

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We were well beaten yesterday. The truth is we really don't have players of the pace menace of Bergkamp or Overmars.

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4 JUL 1994:  DENNIS BERSKAMP OF HOLLAND CELEBRATES DURING THE 1994 WORLD CUP MATCH HOLLAND V IRELAND AT THE CITRUS BOWL IN ORLANDO, FLORIDA. Mandatory Credit: Simon Bruty/ALLSPORT

4 JUL 1994: DENNIS BERSKAMP OF HOLLAND CELEBRATES DURING THE 1994 WORLD CUP MATCH HOLLAND V IRELAND AT THE CITRUS BOWL IN ORLANDO, FLORIDA. Mandatory Credit: Simon Bruty/ALLSPORT

4 JUL 1994: DENNIS BERSKAMP OF HOLLAND CELEBRATES DURING THE 1994 WORLD CUP MATCH HOLLAND V IRELAND AT THE CITRUS BOWL IN ORLANDO, FLORIDA. Mandatory Credit: Simon Bruty/ALLSPORT

I thought Bergkamp looked the complete striker yesterday and that's saying something considering he was up against Phil Babb and Paul McGrath.

Terry Phelan had an unhappy game against Overmars and I think his soft back header that led to the opening goal reflected a troubled man.

It is a reflection of the quality within this Dutch team that as soon as Terry erred, you just sensed there would be a goal.

Ireland knuckled down thereafter and I thought that Gary Kelly's two runs down the right wing were magnificent, just the gestures to ignite a team in trouble. What a shame, his crosses did not reach a green shirt.

The tragedy that then befell Packie was a deadening blow.

I always believed if we could keep the Dutch to a single goal in that first 45 minutes, there was every chance that we might still take them. But as soon as Jonk's drive squirmed from Packie's grasp, the team was right at the bottom of an Everest.

Possession-wise they dominated the second-half but you sensed the Dutch-wen quite happy to allow that happen Two goals up, their thoughts were already on Brazil in Dallas.

You could quibble legitimately about Paul McGrath's late goal being disallowed Just minutes earlier, an even higher Dutch boot was allowed to go unpenalised.

But, then, we have spent much of this tournament talking about inconsistent refereeing.

Yesterday, offered further proof that all is not right among the men who carry the whistles.

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Holland player Ronald Koeman (l) tackles Roy Keane as Frank Rijkaard (r) looks on during the FIFA World Cup match between the Netherlands and Republic of Ireland at the Citrus Bowl, Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Ben Radford/Allsport/Getty Images)

Holland player Ronald Koeman (l) tackles Roy Keane as Frank Rijkaard (r) looks on during the FIFA World Cup match between the Netherlands and Republic of Ireland at the Citrus Bowl, Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Ben Radford/Allsport/Getty Images)

Holland player Ronald Koeman (l) tackles Roy Keane as Frank Rijkaard (r) looks on during the FIFA World Cup match between the Netherlands and Republic of Ireland at the Citrus Bowl, Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Ben Radford/Allsport/Getty Images)

My Irish players of this tournament have got to be Phil Babb, Paul McGrath, Gary Kelly and the amazing Roy Keane.

For a man who has endured such a long, exhausting season with Manchester United, Keane worked a small miracle providing outstanding midfield power to Ireland in all four of our games.

Truly he has arrived as a major force in football.

Now that its over, we should not be despondent.

The arrival of men like Babb, Kelly and McAteer offers new, surging momentum for the forthcoming European Championship campaign. We ought to remember that opens in just two months.

Football wounds always heal with time and I think that those we suffered in Orlando yesterday should not leave lasting scars. We ought to be proud of the team and the courage they showed when misfortune bit so savagely.

Here's to the Euro Championships in England ‘96!


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