Italia ’90, My Memories of Three Crazy Weeks!

11 Jun

Italia ‘90.  My memories, Twenty Five Years On.

Italia 90 a

Tickets in hand, a mere 23 years young………

Part One:  Cagliari, Matchday 1

11th June, 1990, Saint Elia Stadium, Cagliari, Sardinia. Ireland v England.

I’m soaking wet with seven of my nine companions on that trip (two decided they didn’t want to risk going to the England game) in the Saint Elia Stadium in Cagliari.  An electrical storm that arrived at half time in our first World Cup match had drowned every one of us.  We were cold, wet and fairly miserable as England led 1-0 from a scruffy, horrible, preventable Gary Lineker goal (he’d been waiting for that for two years after being denied several times in our Euro 88 win over them).

The English fans were dancing within eye and earshot, “let’s all ‘ave a disco, let’s all ‘ave a disco, na na na na, na na na na”.  Hard to take.  We bit our lips, we wrung out our shirts and shorts and hoped we’d salvage something.  The storm (off the pitch) abated, there was no real storm on the pitch as the players’ familiarity with each other and the breezy conditions turned the match into a slog and a battle of attrition, a bore quite frankly.  We kept the vocal support going as best we could, but the noise disappeared into the Cagliari air as the stadium was completely open, apart from a small roof over the Press Box.  One wouldn’t be expecting the hacks to start singing or repeating the Mexican Wave that arrived on our screens in the previous World Cup in Mexico.

72 minutes gone and our singing was becoming as desperate as the match.  Packy Bonner roared “OUT” at his back four (Morris, McCarthy, Moran and Staunton) as he summoned up all his strength for another booming punt down the middle of the park.  Route 1 in all its glory.  Cascarino and Terry Butcher went for the high ball and neither won it.   The ball dropped to Kevin Sheedy but his attempt at a pass was completely mis-hit and we groaned in frustration again at another unforced error.   England’s sub Steve McMahon of Liverpool took possession, but his touch was heavy (another English disease to go with their hooligans).  He frantically tried to atone for his poor touch by stretching to pass to his full back Gary Stevens.  Too late.  Sheedy pounced to repair his earlier poor play and blocked the pass and as the ball broke out of Sheedy’s tackle, this was the moment.  Sheedy’s trusty, lethal left peg did the rest from the edge of the box.  Shilton saw it all the way but his dive was never going to stop Sheedy’s shot.  I was over a hundred metres away down the far end, but the second the ball left Sheedy’s boot I knew it was in.  Shilton could probably almost taste the fizz of the ball and the rain as it scorched past him.  GOOOOOOALLLLLLL!!!

Sheedy

Sheedy rifles past Shilton for that historic first World Cup Goal (look at McLoughlin offside!!)

Cue the Paddy celebrations.  Joy, relief, disbelief, ecstasy, defiance and many more emotions hit me in that split second after we realised the referee and linesman were running back to halfway (Alan McLoughlin was in an offside position when offside meant offside, payback for the Van Basten offside of Euro 88).  The English disco lights were suddenly turned off as a Cagliari Ceili erupted.  My glasses went flying as my companions and other delirious Irish fans embraced me.  I’d only been wearing glasses for four months, “ah f*ck this” as my celebrations stopped abruptly and I clambered down the rows of seats hoping a) I’d find me glasses and b) they weren’t broken.   Miraculously both my hopes were somehow realised and I slipped them back on and rejoined the lads for the hollering and roaring.  Fergus Bishop began taunting the Disco shower, “sing when you’re wa*king, yiz only sing when you’re wa*king”……….within two choruses our whole end had joined in as we taunted the English as only we can.  Nothing beats scoring against England.   Sheedy’s goal was the last major moment of the opening match, we didn’t care.  “You’ll Never Beat the Irish” bellowed out (in our 8 qualifying games for Italia-90, we had kept seven clean sheets in eight matches).  We’d avoided defeat  (or as we said since then, we won 1 all) to the Auld Enemy, we’d scored in our first ever World Cup game and best of all, we were there.

img201

Celebrating our World Cup 1-1 victory v England: Back: Dave Dunne, Mick Dunne (hidden by

Alan Keane’s arm), Alan Keane, Rodney Bishop. Front: Charlie Dunne, Phelim Warren, Fergus Bishop.

img205

Been there, done that, worn the t-shirt!

*********************************

Part 2: Terrasini:

The ten of us who travelled on our first ever World Cup Odyssey were meself, Alan and Derek Keane, Fergus and Rodney Bishop, Dave Dunne (Alan’s brother in law), Charlie and Mick Dunne (Dave’s uncles), Brian Evers and Paul Meade.  We booked our own flights and accommodation and based ourselves for two weeks in a massive Complex called Citta del Mare in a town called Terrasini, just outside Palermo.  We would play two matches in Palermo and the English game was as mentioned above, played in Cagliari on the island of Sardinia.  There was no accommodation to be found in Cagliari when we were booking so after that game we decided we’d just “sleep” in the airport that night and catch a mid-morning flight back to Palermo the day after.

The Italian Police were taking absolutely no chances once England were in town as English football fans’ reputation was still in the gutter from years of hooliganism.  There was a matchday alcohol ban in force in Cagliari and we couldn’t get a beer that night after the 1-1 draw either.  The decent result thanks to Sheedy’s goal made the night in the airport a bit easier to bear, but being the resourceful lot we were, we took a very early taxi into Cagliari city centre early next morning where we were served very welcome breakfast beers to celebrate the draw the night before and met some English fans from Birmingham who were as frustrated as we were delighted.  We floated back onto the flight to Palermo that afternoon.

Terrasini itself was straight out of The Godfather movies.  Its quaint old square, adorned with small but welcoming bars kept the football fans well stocked with local and international beers.  We’d spend our afternoons curing hangovers and basking in the Palermo sun while the local bar owners gladly counted their zillions of lire as each hour passed and another round of beers disappeared.

Most nights were then spent back at Citta Del Mare’s excellent night club where the Irish World Cup Song “Put Em Under Pressure” (a copy of which had been wisely brought out)  quickly became very well known to the other guests fortunate enough (or maybe unfortunate) to be in the middle of a two week Irish piss up.   When the disco music finished, a sing-song would usually ensue, which we sometimes moved down to the Amphitheatre on the complex which had a massive screen where we could enjoy the other matches in the tournament.  Non-Irish guests would rightly complain about these late night Irish sing-songs (I had brought the squeezebox), so we’d move down to the Amphitheatre (Amputation Theatre as Alan called it) and try to keep the noise down somewhat.  We tried, but failed………… I’m blaming ex-Shamrock Rovers stalwart Robbie Gaffney for that.

Beers weren’t bought at Citta Del Mare accommodation in usual cash custom.  One had to purchase bags of plastic beads at Reception and when you wanted a beer, you handed over your 4 beads to the barman.  So beads were, in effect, beer money so you looked after your beads carefully.  Again, Irish drinkers being resourceful and thrifty, the local off licences were raided and take-out beers bought by the caseload.

As well as beads, we had bidets.  The hotel rooms didn’t have a fridge, so our take-out beers were kept as cold as we could keep them by filling up the bidet with cold water and putting the beers in the bidet.  Wasn’t particularly ideal but what else could we do?

img204

Ex Rovers star Robbie Gaffney with me in Citta Del Mare, Terrasini, June 1990

*****************************************

Part 3, Matchday 2

17th June, 1990.  La Favorita Stadium, Palermo, Sicily.  Ireland v Egypt.

It’s a humid, sticky day but we’re not complaining given the drenching we got in Cagliari at the England game.  There’s an absolute party atmosphere around the Stadium and it’s clear there’s huge support for the Irish team, clearly swelled by one-day trippers following the good result against England six days previously.  Egyptian support is passionate but small enough and despite Egypt holding the European Champions Holland to a draw in their first match, we Irish are expecting a win which would put us in with a great chance of making the last 16.  Charlton names an unchanged starting XI from the England game, no big surprise there.

Bonner; Morris, McCarthy, Moran, Staunton; Houghton, McGrath, Townsend, Sheedy; Cascarino and Aldridge.

The memory itself is of a dreadful game.  Egypt came to defend and did it well.  Ireland had neither the wit nor strategy to break them down.  For all Charlton’s virtues, Plan B rarely existed and Ireland’s sledgehammer failed abysmally to crack Egypt’s nut.  My most vivid memory of a terrible 90 minutes is Staunton’s 25 yarder scraping the paint off the post near the end and knowing we were never gonna score on the day.  We shuffled out of La Favorita that day frustrated and chastened.  Our bubble had been burst by an admittedly negative Egypt, but Charlton (and the players) deserved the criticism for a really poor performance.  In those pre-youtube and social media days, we didn’t see Eamon Dunphy’s famous meltdown and pen throwing incident on the RTE Panel after the game until we turned on our VCRs when we got home. Probably just as well.

img202

A look of anti-climax on faces after the 0-0 draw with Egypt in Palermo.  Back row: Derek

Keane, Dave Dunne, Fergus Bishop.  Front: Rodney Bishop, Phelim Warren, Alan Keane,

Mick Dunne, Charlie Dunne.

************************************************

Part 4, Matchday 3

21st June 1990, La Favorita Stadium, Palermo. Sicily.   Ireland v Holland.

The frustration of that Sunday afternoon against Egypt soon gave way to anticipation and nerves as the Dutch were last to play in our group.  All four group games had been drawn so any of the four teams could still advance, but even so, we still expected England to beat Egypt and hoped that a draw might be enough, if we managed to get a draw.  Let’s not forget this was a Dutch team who were European Champions, boasting  phenomenal players still around from 1988 such as Ronald Koeman, Jan Wouters, Gerald Vanenburg, Frank Rijkaard, Marco Van Basten and the mercurial and majestic Ruud Gullit.

Make no mistake however, ours was still a formidable Irish team also and we lined up with one change from the opening two games, as Tony Cascarino was punished for two poor displays by losing out to a chomping at the bit Niall Quinn.  Ireland lined up with Bonner, Morris, McCarthy, Moran, Staunton; Houghton, McGrath, Townsend, Sheedy, Quinn and Aldridge.

It was a humid but bearable night for football and the evening kick off under lights really gave the night a top footballing occasion feeling.  Like the Irish, the Dutch fans travelled in huge numbers so there was an almost capacity crowd in La Favorita Stadium.   Added to that, with the stands being so close to the pitch, there was a real old-fashioned and proper footballing atmosphere as the teams emerged from the tunnel.  There were Irish flags everywhere and the vocal support from the beginning was incredible.   After the initial cagey match against England and the borefest of the Egypt game, this promised to be a really big World Cup clash and one we had come all this way to see and enjoy.

Ten minutes in, we knew we had finally arrived at World Cup level.  Koeman fed Gullit in a dangerous inside right position and Gullit cut through our back four with a lovely one-two with our Euro 88 nemesis Wim Kieft.  Despite tracking Gullit gamely, Paul McGrath couldn’t block Gullit’s shot and it seared across Packy Bonner low inside the far post.  The Oranje rose and roared in unison, it sent a shiver down the Irish spine and drew a collective Irish head in the hands moment.  It was a superb goal and difficult to prevent such was its precision, incision and execution.  1-0 Holland.

To be fair to Charlton’s team, the goal didn’t bury them and as the half wore on, Ireland mixed up some usual direct football with some progressive stuff on the deck and we were by no means a beaten docket at half time.

The vocal support kept increasing as the second half wore on as we willed the Irish forward.  In the 72nd minute, the Dutch door finally gave way.  Bonner, as in the England game, launched a huge clearance down the centre.  With substitute Cascarino (pointlessly) chasing Dutch full back Berry Van Aerle, the Dutchman volleyed the ball back in the direction of his keeper, Hans Van Breukelen.  Back in 1990, a keeper could handle the ball from a backpass  but with Van Aerle’s pass having too much pace on it, Van Breukelen dived anxiously to his left to prevent an own goal or a corner and as he landed, the ball squirmed free.   Big Quinner was following up as good forwards should and he slid that big long leg out with sufficient pace to direct the ball off Van Breukelen and high into the Dutch net.  I was high enough in the stand in line with the Dutch goal so I’d a great view of it and all hell broke loose (or Heaven to be more accurate)  as the net rippled and Quinner got up to celebrate.  A massive Irish roar covered the air of La Favorita Stadium as we embraced all round us in utter elation.   Alan Keane beside us was in tears, that’s how much it meant.  Keaner, the usual pessimist (apart from the England game at Euro 88 when he piped up after an hour that England would “never score” and was proved right), not one to display huge outpourings of emotion was sitting there blubbing his head off, that’s indeed how much Quinner’s goal meant.

Ireland went for jugular with the Irish fans now at fever pitch and Cascarino drove a shot viciously across the Dutch goalmouth minutes later.  Then a calm seemed to descend on proceedings as it became apparent that a draw would probably be enough for both sides to advance.  The last 10 minutes became a non-event, but we were oblivious enough to it as we were too busy singing and basking in Quinner’s goal.  The game finished 1-1 and the party could now start as England had beaten Egypt 1-0 to advance to the last sixteen with us and Holland.

“Que Sera Sera, whatever will be will be, we’re staying in Italy, que sera sera”………

img203

Our party of 10 after the 1-1 draw with the Dutch.  L-R at back, Derek Keane, Dave Dunne, Alan Keane, Paul Meade, Brian Evers, Charlie Dunne and Fergus Bishop. Front row: Mick Dunne, Phelim Warren, Rodney Bishop.

************************************************

Part 5: Terrasini post-match.

So we all piled into Terrasini, Irish and Dutch fans together as the Terrasini bars primed themselves for another onslaught of thirsty fans, but this one would be mental.  A stage was set up by a local DJ and as I had my accordion with me (having gone back to the Hotel to get it), we politely asked the DJ could I get onto the stage and play a few songs and thankfully he agreed.  So I took the microphone and launched into “Spancil Hill” and the few hundred fans very quickly rose to a few thousand and Irish necks craned to see who was singing Irish folk songs in a Sicilian Square.  After two songs, I got a tap on the shoulder to let another singer on.  It was none other than The Wolfe Tones’ Brian Warfield!  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  Brian took the mic and within seconds “We’re on the One Road” and “A Nation Once Again” was echoing around Terrasini, this was just amazing.  Ireland had qualified for the last 16 of the World Cup in its first appearance, we’d gone toe to toe with the European Champions and now I was playing music with a folk legend in front of a few thousand happy Irish football fans.  Paul Kimmage’s simply brilliant piece from the Sunday Tribune of 24th June captures that night perfectly…………..here it is in its entirety, enjoy…………..

“ONLY A GAME IN SICILY”  by Paul Kimmage

“Egypt…………….And Then The Promised Land”. The headline on the front pages of last weeks Tribune summed up our feelings as we walked to the stadium. It would have been hard to write a respectable one for how we felt on the way out.  We hadn’t won.  We hadn’t been beaten either but that consolation didn’t seem to count for much.

We were disappointed, let down, empty.  “Moses” Charlton had led us to the Red Sea and the waters had stayed closed.

The days before.  The hour during.  The minutes after.

Holland……….and then the promised land.

The days before were about calculation, studying the mathematics of qualification.  From noon until night we calculated.  “We need West Germany to stuff Columbia, for Brazil to beat Scotland, for South Korea to beat Uruguay, for England to beat Egypt – or better still for Egypt to beat England and a draw or a win against Holland”  Simple.

And argument.

All day and every day we argued.  In the morning over coffee and rolls, in the afternoon over “gelato” and “cappuchino”, in the evening over spaghetti and beer.  “Yes I see your point Seamus but I still think we should go looking for a draw”.  

“Rubbish, did ye see Italy against the Czechs?  We’re not in the same league.  I say we throw caution to the wind and go for the win”.

“Why isn’t he giving Whelan a game?  He was bombing in training yesterday”.

“If only Brady had played against the Egyptians”.

And Eamon Dunphy.

It seemed half the bloody island was talking about Eamon Dunphy.  Rumour said he was ashamed to be Irish.  That he had thrown a pen! On televison!  Live! RTE must have loved it. Did they replay it in slow motion?  Rumour had it he was on the island, had made an appearance at a press conference and that Jack had walked out.

They got some mileage out of it in the cafes.  “He’s an awful bollox, writes some good articles and I always read him but still an awful bollox. He’s knockin’ us before we’re beaten but we’re still in with a chance”.  They sang about him at night in the bars.  “Eamon Dunphy writes a load of shite, doo dah, doo dah”

Or:

“If ye hate Eamon Dunphy clap your hands………clap your hands, if ye hate Eamon Dunphy clap your hands……..clap your hands”.

There were people who respected his courage, agreed with some of his criticisms but their voices were drowned in the masses.  Nearly everyone clapped.  It was sad.

Met a few guys the day before the match.  You meet guys all the time over here.  You exchange pleasantries over beer or coffee, talking about “home” and work and the match and the team they would pick.  You swap names and addresses on receipts and beer mats and then walk away.  And forget.

Met two guys on Wednesday – forget their names but they were opposites.  Joe, a middle-aged Irishman had travelled alone from his home in England to support his country.  He had no problem getting tickets for the first two matches but couldn’t find anyone with a spare for the Dutch match.  The day before the game he went to the Press Centre outside the stadium where officials of the FAI were distributing the access cards.  Six hundred supporters turned up looking for tickets.  The FAI had 90, they drew lots.  Joe’s name stayed in the hat.  

The second guy, Nigel, was much luckier.  Dashing, early 20s, good job, few bob – a “Master of the Universe”.  He won the trip to the Dutch game in a competition. (Q: Describe in ten words why you like Loo Lah cassette tapes?  A: I like Loo Lah tapes because…………..)

Clever guy Nigel, he sent all the right words to Loo Lah and won a trip to Sicily.  It was his first time at an international match – he didn’t really like the game and would have sold the ticket but, well, this was the World Cup.  “I was there” would go down well in The Berkely Court.  Saw him on the bus on the way to the match.  Blue short sleeved shirt, beige slacks, shades – he looked a bit out of place in the sea of green.  A fan.  A designer fan.

Eamon Dunphy has written a lot about designer fans.  He’s dead right.  MEMO TO THE FAI: Sirs: If in four years time we qualify again for the World Cup, please control the distribution of match tickets more thoroughly to ensure the real fan is not at the mercy of the unscrupulous travel agent and the company marketing men when looking for tickets.  Grazie.

We got to the ground two hours before kick off.  Orange, green, police, sirens, drums banging, the smell of horse shit and butterflies.  Colourful, delicate, elegant butterflies – such pleasant little insects.  Except when they get in your stomach.

It’s terrible when they get in your stomach.  Maybe it was the extra decibels, the added colour, the feeling there was so much at stake.  

Whatever it was, the little hoors were fluttering around the bellies of every Irishman in the stadium.  We were nervous.

It’s nice to get in early, gives one the chance to observe, to manwatch.  Manwatching is one way of swotting butterflies.  I noticed this guy sitting two rows below.  Big man, 30 to 35, bit thin on top (bald), cut lip.  It was his aggressiveness that drew my attention.  The look in his eye, the provocative pointing of his finger, his chanting “Get into them, clap clap clap clap, get into them clap clap clap clap”.;  

I had seen shaven heads with tattoos and union jacks at this sort of carry on a week earlier in Cagliari.  But this fellow was Irish.  A bowsey.  An Irish bowsey.  There was a contingent of Dutch fans sitting close by.  They were larger than life, colourful, out to enjoy themselves.  One had a huge drum.  Every time he beat the drum, the cut lip would stand up and let out a string of abuse, pointing his finger.  “Baahhhhhh ye Dutch bastards” (he used a stronger adjective).

The teams came out on the pitch and we had the singing of the National Anthems.  One of the great memories has been the respect our fans have shown towards the anthems of those we have played against.  

Ours was first.  The lip sang it like he had personally hoisted the flag on the roof of the GPO in 1916.  A patriot.  The Dutch anthem.  Would he start whistling?  Some of our fans were noisy.

“Shuuuuuuuuuuuusssssssshhhhhhhhhhh” we tried to quieten them.  The lip seemed confused at the respect.  

I watched his lips – “Shuuuuuuuusssssssssshhhh”.  Incredible.  He had joined the requests for silence.  Was this an Irish bowsey, a mouth with too much drink or a confused idiot?  Manwatching can be fascinating.

Noise was at its highest after the anthems.  Eamon Dunphy came in for more abuse.  “Saw Dunphy on his way to the ground.  The bastard wasn’t wearing any green”  The singing followed: “If you hate Eamon………..”  The intensity of the chorus, the depth of resentment against the journalist was amazing.  He must have heard it from his seat in the Press Box.  What did it sound like from up there?

Half time, one down.  Fifteen minutes to manwatch. Four guys this time.  Not much going on in their faces – sad eyes.dropped mouths, emptiness, dejection.  One of the frightening things about football is its effects on people. It is most disturbing to see grown men cursing their heads off, veins popping out the side of their necks, eyes bulging out of their heads just because Morris makes a dud clearance or Aldridge misses an open goal or Ruudy puts one past Packy.  The manwatching is disturbed by a message on the Public Address system.  Dominic McFadden is asked to contact his parents in Donegal for an urgent message……….bad news waiting patiently at the end of a phone line.  No one takes much notice – too caught up in the sorrow of imminent departure from Italy.  Poor Dominic.

You lose all sense of true values out here.  In the four days between the games with Egypt and Holland, children would have starved to death in Africa, some poor down and out would have choked on his own vomit in a Parisian Metro station,  tragic accidents would have caused immeasurable grief to families all around the globe.  But we were oblivious to it all.  All that mattered was the game against Holland. And now we were losing it – the end of the world.

To hell with it, when all’s said and done it’s only a game.  Wasn’t it Eamon Dunphy who wrote that? Why then did he throw his pen?  Why were we silent and sad when Gullit rattled the back of our net?  Funny old game.

The second half was so much better.

“Ooooooooooh, hard luck Aldo!!”.  “Go on Rayo, go on Rayo…………ah Jaysus Rayo”. And then, just when we thought it was unsafe to go in the water.  “Quinner” stuck his toe out and opened the sea.  The Red Sea.  The gateway to the Promised Land.  Halleluiah.

What a stretch!  Thank God he didn’t cut his toenails before the game.

The final whistle. “Yeeeeeeeeeeesssssssssssss!”

It’s funny how knackered you feel after watching a football match.  We walked back to the buses in the car park , no singing or dancing or cheering.  We sat in our seats, numb – drained physically from the butterflies and tension, the clapping and shouting.  But by the time we reached Terrasini, a small village 25 miles out of Palermo, we had recovered.  Everyone converged on Terrasini and its small square dominated by the church, the ice cream bars and cafes.  Earlier in the week, McCarthy and Whelan and Houghton had signed autographs and sipped beers here.  Jackie Charlton had sung songs here.  This was the place to be – perhaps they might come again.

The poor square couldn’t cope, coach load after coach load of deliriously happy, hungry and above all thirsty Irishmen.  All pizzas, sandwiches and rolls disappeared within seconds.  But there was no shortage of beer so the party was saved.  How much was Niall Quinn worth in alcohol sales?  A few days earlier, a local bar owner had said he had sold more beer in four days than he had in an entire year.

What would they sell tonight?  A thousand Irish “hooley gans” on the rampage, dancing and singing in the streets.  A small stage had been set up in the centre of the square.  First came the patriot songs.

“North Men, South Men, comrades all, Dublin, Belfast, Cork or Donegal, we’re on the one road singing a song………..”  Pat and Carmel from Douglas, Pat from Walshestown, Brid from Longford, Brian from Skerries, John from the Coombe, Kevin from Louth, three men from Ballaghaderreen, three more from Nobber.  All Irish, all proud.

“Rude Gullets” goal had almost wiped us off the face of the earth but now we were “A Nation Once Again, a Nation once Again………”  A local band took over.  They played “The Lambada”, a sexy hip-gyrating rhumba from South America and we queued up to dance with their women – stunners.  But the nicest of all was Irish.

Someone said she was Paul McGrath’s sister.  Whoever she was, she was in great demand.  “Can I have your autograph?”  Oooh Aaah.

There were a few Dutch fans present, we lauded them with praise.  “Yis played some great football in the last 10 minutes”…….”Ruudy needs a haircut, Ruudy needs a haircut, nah nah nah nah…….”

The band stopped playing at 2.30, the bars closed at 3.

Dismay, pleading.  “Can we get one more please, just one more?”  Our capacity for beer is mind-boggling.  The last departure from the square was at five in the morning.  Terrasini will never see the like of it again.

I don’t think I have seen so many unhealthy people as I did the next day, or rather later in the same day.  Bloodshot eyes, sore heads, lost voices.  One guy was halfway through his millionth rendition of “Ole Ole” when he fell nine foot from a balcony from a terrace.  He was sore but otherwise unscathed.

But there were few complaints.  The dream lives on, next stop Romania.

Jack’s army was optimistic.  “Sure we’ll lash them, they’ve no food out there”.  The good humour and crack later flew home to Dublin.

Some had gone direct to Genoa, but the majority were penniless, holiday-less and under threat of divorce unless they returned.  The loved ones were waiting in the airport terminal.  Tanned hubbies walking out to children and wives and cheers and credit card overdrafts.  Soldiers returning from war.  “I’m sorry I didn’t ring love, the Italian phones were brutal”.

An airport worker struggles to wheel a huge parcelled package through the masses.  Some quick wit shouts “Look, it’s Eamon Dunphy”.

Everybody laughed.  I laughed.  You have to.  Sure it’s only a game.

Paul Kimmage

The Sunday Tribune

24th June 1990.

********************************************************************

Part 6:  “You’re Very Good for coming Home”

So the qualification for the last 16 celebrations in Terrasini lasted long into Friday morning, 22nd June and sadly, a couple of flights back to Dublin beckoned (although I was stopping off in London for that weekend to meet some Irish pals who were working there) and with hangovers the size of Mount Etna, we bade Arrivederci to Terrasini.  I think back now and still kick myself at what I was doing leaving Italy with a last 16 match in Genoa against Romania to come on the Monday, despite being due back in work that day.

Lo and behold, I arrived back in work on the Monday, in several pieces from two weeks at a World Cup and a weekend with pals in London and my Manager in work with a look of surprise says “Ah you’re very good for coming home!”  In my 23 year old naivete as an employee, I wrongly assumed I really HAD to be back at work, my Manager’s genuine surprise at my return made my blood run cold at what I’d done in missing the Romania match.  The ten of us who were on the trip arranged to meet up anyhow at CYM club in Terenure to watch the drama unfold on the Big Screen and while it was another memorable day culminating in that 5-4 penalties victory for Ireland, it just wasn’t the same not being out there.  We still stayed partying mind you in CY till the wee hours and I really don’t know how none of us were carted off to hospital with alcohol poisoning.

**************************************************************

Part 7, “Schillaci has scored……again”  

Having been gutted to miss out on the last 16 game, the Quarter Final with Italy was down for decision on Saturday 30th June in Rome.  Brendan Moran (brother of Kevin), who was well known to me called me a couple of days before the game to tell me he had a match ticket waiting for me in Rome if I could out get out there.  Frantically (this was before the age of Internet travel) I made I don’t know how many phone calls to try get a route to Rome, but it was impossible and I had to admit defeat and tell Brendan to let another lucky fan get that match ticket.

So again, we all assembled at CYM Terenure for the Italy game.  It was always gonna be a nigh impossible task for Ireland to be allowed to beat Italy on their home patch and while we weren’t robbed by the referee in the manner of the John Giles/Eoin Hand era, it was clear the Portuguese referee was a complete homer as Ireland got zero decisions all night.  Ireland played really heroically against the host nation but the talismanic Toto Schillaci scored the only goal of the game in the first half after Bonner had parried Donadoni’s shot into his path.  It was a magnificent finish by the Sicilian and I will forever hear Jimmy Magee’s voice in my head as the ball rolled inside the far post “Schillaci has scored…….again”.   We were out, heroic, defiant, brave but out.  Ciao.

Toto Schillaci barely scored ever again.

*****************************************************************

So those are my memories of a truly unforgettable three weeks in my life and the life of this nation.  Euro-88 had given people a glimpse of what was possible for this country and for those unbelievable three weeks in Ireland in the Summer of 1990, football was THE game in the country.  People with absolutely no interest in sport, never mind football, were carried away on a wave of euphoria and national pride in a manner not seen before or since.  Everyone bought the colours, pubs were crammed, off-licences couldn’t keep up with demand for booze, mothers made Irish flags/woolly jumpers/scarves and the rest.  Children learned the football songs in school and furiously collected the stickers for their World Cup albums.   Grown men cried, credit unions cried, livers cried stop and Bill (Lord Rest Him), John and Eamon became part of the furniture.  Cars roared around streets after matches in a way we only used to see on television when other countries were successful.  For 90-120 minutes on five days/nights in June 1990, this country downed tools and watched football.  It was great.

The End.

Phelim Warren, June 2015.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: