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Memories are made of this
30th Anniversary Retrospective: An Irish team had never qualified for the finals of a major tournament in 1977. It took another 11 years for that dream to be realised – and there’s been a few memorable campaigns since. Tony Cascarino fills us in.
Tony Cascarino, 20 Jun 2007
I never need an excuse anyway, but since it’s hotpress’s 30th birthday, it seems a suitable time to look back on the Republic’s glory years.
My first call-up was in 1985. Eoin Hand brought me on board, though he wasn’t getting the results and lost his job a few months after I joined. Jack Charlton took over – and it wasn’t long before we realised there was something really special going on with the team.
I remember looking around the dressing room one day and being overwhelmed by the talent that was there. We had bloody great players – there was Aldridge, Stapleton, Whelan, Houghton, O’Leary, Chris Hughton, Tony Galvin. Any national team would have killed to have players like that. Even the bench was full of talent. Jack himself brought leadership qualities, and a single-mindedness that was unique to the job. He was very sure about exactly what he wanted us to do, and even if certain individuals in the group didn’t agree with him, he made certain they did what he told them to. In the early stages, there was a fair amount of muttering to the effect that we should play more free-flowing football – but, as the results kept on coming, everyone began to believe in him more and more, and the feeling grew that we could really make an impact on the international stage.
He wanted players fighting for their shirts, so no-one was ever guaranteed their place. It was good, it kept everyone on their toes. I’d been in the wilderness really for Jack’s first 18 months – I didn’t play much part in the qualifiers, and just got back into the squad in time for the Euro ‘88 finals. I played well in a few friendlies and he decided I was worth a go.
That day in Stuttgart when we beat England 1-0 was unforgettable. I remember the incredible atmosphere in the stadium, and being taken aback at how many Irish fans had made the trip. England had some great players at the time: in particular, Gary Lineker was probably the best striker in Europe, he was so sharp and quick and knew where the goal was. But between Mick McCarthy and Packie Bonner, there was no way he could get through that day.