Irish Soccer's Most Memorable Moments, No 41: Duffer on the world stage, 1997
Time for number 41 on the countdown and we go back to Damien Duff announcing himself on the world stage in 1997.
It was Brian Kerr’s first tournament as Ireland’s underage manager and he had surprised a lot of sceptical folk by naming three League of Ireland players in his squad for the 1997 FIFA World Youth Championships.
The gamble paid off and Ireland managed their best ever finish at a world championship at any level, finishing third.
Some of the squad have gone on to have decent careers, Neale Fenn, Glen Crowe, Dessie Baker and Colin Hawkins.
But this tournament is synonymous with Damien Duff destroying defences from the left wing. The game plan was pretty much to counter attack quickly and get the ball to 18-year old Duffer.
It didn’t start too well, Ireland lost their first group match against Ghana 2-1.
Goals from Trevor Molloy, a League of Ireland player, vindicated Kerr’s decision to the Irish-based players and also helped propel Ireland out of their group. Neale Fenn and Micky Cummins were also regular scorers.
Damien Duff scored the first ever golden goal at a major tournament to end the last sixteen match against Morocco 2-1, with Ireland advancing to the quarter finals.
Ireland then beat Spain 1-Nil in the quarter-finals with Trevor Molloy knocking away a penalty.
Ireland succumbed to eventual winners Argentina 1-Nil in the semi-finals. Their excellent side featured a young Pablo Aimar, Juan Roman Riquelme and Esteban Cambiasso.
Ireland finished third after beating Ghana in the third/fourth place play-off with Duffer getting on the scoresheet in a 2-1 reverse of their opening match.
This tournament will forever be associated with launching the career of Damien Duff and below you can see just how talented the young Blackburn winger was.
We apologise for the 90s trance song accompanying the video, we at JOE would have used ‘Born Slippy’ to pay homage to Duffer.
Today marks 41 days to go until the start of Euro 2012, so stick with us every day as we present another memorable Irish soccer moment.