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16th May 2016

REELING IN THE EUROS: Looking back on Ireland’s famous win against England at Euro ’88

Paul Moore

Who put the ball in the English net?

With Euro ’16 upon us, we’ve decided to take a look at Ireland’s previous matches at the European Championships.

To be honest, tournament debuts don’t get much better than this.

The rocky road to Stuttgart: Ireland’s qualification group for Euro ’88 was far from easy with Belgium, Scotland, Bulgaria and Luxembourg all making up a difficult group. The Jack Charlton era started with draws to Belgium and Scotland Two draws before an away win over the Scots was followed by a surprise 2-1 defeat to Bulgaria.

Minnows Luxembourg were easily disposed of but a 2-0 win against Bulgaria was soured by Liam Brady’s sending off, the Arsenal legend would ultimately miss the finals through a mix of injury and suspension. Ireland’s fate was out of their hands, but much like Valeri Kazaishvili’s goal for Georgia against Scotland on the road to Euro ’16, Ireland were given a lifeline thanks to Scotland’s debutant Gary Mackay.

Ireland had qualified for their first international tournament.

COYBIG!: Here’s what the match ticket looked like.

Ticket Euro '88 England

Funny fan story: “We were staying in Karlsruhe and I decided to get the late night train back. I was the only one who actually got on the train and promptly fell asleep, only to be woken up by a man shouting “passport” at me.  He then told men that me I was at the French border, on my way to Paris.  He told me to get off the train and instructed me where to wait for the return train. I arrived in Karlsruhe during the morning rush hour and had no idea where the hotel was so waited for my mates at the station” – via Your Boys in Green.

The build up: Prior to the tournament, Ireland spent two weeks training at the Finnstown House in Lucan but Jack being Jack, somehow managed to fit a day out at the Phoenix Park races into the schedule. Ireland’s pre-tournament match saw them beat Poland 3-1 in a fairly low key affair. Jimmy Hill had said Ireland were only there to make up the numbers on a sweltering afternoon in Stuttgart, how wrong he was.

Here’s how the match was previewed.

The starting XI: Packie Bonner, Chris Morris, Mick McCarthy, Kevin Moran, Chris Hughton, Ray Houghton, Paul McGrath, Ronnie Whelan, Tony Galvin, Frank Stapleton, John Aldridge. SubsNiall Quinn for Stapleton (63), Kevin Sheedy for Galvin (76) Subs Not Used: Gerry Peyton; John Byrne; John Anderson

The match: Ireland made the best start possible thanks to Ray Houghton’s opener, but it’s largely forgotten just how good Jack Charlton’s side were in the opening 45 minutes.  In fact, Houghton had another golden chance to extend the lead when he beat the offside trap, but Peter Shilton saved. The second half was completely different though. Packie Bonner made a string of saves from Webb, Lineker, Beardsley, Barnes and Bryan Robson. Lineker and Whelan both smacked the bar for Ireland while the Spurs striker saw his header pushed against the post by Bonner.

The memorable moment when: Ray put the ball in the English net.

The reaction: The Irish Times remarked that “it was the day that the Republic of Ireland took its place among the international aristocracy”.

Here are some of the newspaper headlines.



Grown men were crying at the final whistle. Take a look as John Giles, Don Givens and the much missed ‘Billo’ analyse a famous half for Irish football.

At the final whistle, Jack Charlton said that it was “the longest 84 minutes I’ve ever sat through!”. Kevin Moran said “You could add my All Ireland wins with Dublin to my English cup success at Wembley and it still wouldn’t come close to what I feel.”

The English media weren’t as positive though. Jeff Purcell of The Mail felt that England were “scuttled by a bunch of international mercenaries recruited from our own first division.”

Brought to you by Three. #MakeHistory