Top 50 Irish Soccer Moments
Irish Soccer's Most Memorable Moments, No 4: Gary Mackay sends Ireland to Euro 88, 1987
At number four and we look at a vital goal for Ireland scored by a Scotsman who isn’t Ray Houghton.
RTE were televising the Scotland versus Bulgaria match, but not in expectation of Ireland qualifying, more in hope of the slim miracle of Scotland beating Bulgaria to help Jack Charlton’s men qualify for their first major championships in 1988.
Ireland had played all their group matches and now they were relying on the Scots, who hadn’t won away in five years, to beat Bulgaria in fortress Sofia.
Jack Charlton wasn’t even watching the match when an obscure footballer by the name of Gary Mackay scored a goal to send Ireland into their first major Championships.
Expectations for Ireland to qualify were low as they had suffered the heartbreak of so-close-yet-so-far groups quite often, particularly in the previous Eoin Hand-era. Mackay’s goal had a cathartic effect for the entire Irish soccer community.
Gary Mackay, who is now a football agent, played over 500 games for Hearts, but will always be remembered in Ireland rather than his native Scotland for his debut goal.
Here is a great interview with him by Aidan Fitzmaurice of the Evening Herald.
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.