Irish Soccer’s Most Memorable Moments, No 3: Paul McGrath at Giants Stadium, 1994
At number three in our greatest Irish soccer moments we look to Giants Stadium again and Paul McGrath’s magnificent performance that day.
We have mentioned this match before. The reason that this moment rates higher is because Ireland simply wouldn’t have beaten the mighty Italians led by the remarkable strike partnership of Giuseppe Signori and Roberto Baggio who had scored 45 goals between them that season in Serie A without Paul McGrath.
McGrath, playing with one good shoulder having suffered a virus in the other, put in a defiant, classy and indomitable performance against the Italians in the battle in New York.
There were so many fantastic moments from the match, nudging the ball away from the feet of Signori when the striker was almost clear on goal, the famous triple tackle that ended with McGrath just getting on his feet on time to block a goal-bound shot from Baggio.
Franco Baresi, a frequent contender for the title of best ever central defender, could merely clap watching McGrath’s performance that day.
As Irish captain Andy Townsend said:
Not only was Paul McGrath a hero to the Irish nation, he was a hero to every single one of us who played with him on the Ireland team.
While Roy Keane, a man not to give praise lightly, has said of his performance that day:
Big Paul McGrath showed all the qualities demanded of us in Giants Stadium that day. For him the word big is appropriate. Known for his poise, his ability on the ball, his unique gift for reading the game, Paul displayed these qualities on this day. One other huge asset was his courage. When the Italians did get sight of the goal, Paul presented a final, insurmountable obstacle. Paul inspired us as much as in the end he demoralised Roberto Baggio and the other Italian players.
This series has been called Irish Soccer’s Most Memorable Moments and there is so much good will and respect in this country to Ireland’s greatest ever defender that it was inevitable that ‘Big Paul’ would have a high finish up the list.
Indeed one of the earliest memories the writer of this piece has is sitting on his Dad’s lap as a three-year old watching Italia ’90 chanting “Ooh, aah, Paul McGrath
The entire Giants Stadium shook to that chant back in 1994.
WB Yeats wrote that the leaders of the 1916 rising would be remembered “wherever green was worn” wherever the green jersey of Ireland or the claret one of Aston Villa is worn, that chant will reverberate.
Here’s some of the highlights of one of the best performances any football fan ever saw:
We’re counting down the days to Ireland’s Euro 2012 opener against Croatia. Join us every day in the build-up to the tournament for another classic Irish soccer memory.