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Irish Football > Republic of Ireland Qualifying Campaigns > 1988 European Football Championship

Euro 1988 Football Championship - Irish Qualifying Campaign

The Euro 88 qualifying group for the Republic of Ireland soccer team included Bulgaria, Belgium Scotland and Luxembourg. This was a difficult group for the Irish particularly coming so soon after a very poor World Cup Qualifying campaign which saw the end of Eoin Hand's reign as Irish soccer manager. His successor was Englishman Jack Charlton. Through the infamous granny rule Charlton and the FAI had managed to unearth some useful footballers to be added to the Irish squad.

Following a decent start, where Ireland a late 2-2 draw away to the Belgians through a last minute penalty scored by Liam Brady, Ireland surrendered the initiative by only drawing at home with the Scots. The Irish seized back the initiative by beating the Scots through an early Mark Lawrenson goal in the away fixture. This was followed by a 2-1 defeat to the Bulgarians in Sofia. This to be the nature of this group with the four main contenders all taking points from each other. There was a real ebb and flow to Euro 88 Group 7.

Following a disappointing 0-0 home draw with Belgium Ireland went on to defeat Luxembourg twice and, in what was the Republic's best performance in the qualifier group, then beat the Bulgarians 2-0 at Lansdowne Road (now Aviva Stadium). Despite finishing with three straight wins the Republic would be out of the competition if Bulgaria could manage to beat Scotland at home in Sofia.

Gary Mackay - Euro 88 Irish Soccer Hero

A home victory would leave the Bulgarians on twelve points, one more that the total that Ireland had amassed. To the amazement and sheer joy of Irish soccer fans an unknown Scotsman called Gary Mackay scored an 87th minute winner against Bulgaria for Scotland. This was all the more amazing as Scotland could not qualify and therefore had nothing tangible to play for while Bulgaria had qualification for the Euro 88 Finals within it's grasp.

For all Irish soccer fans, of that vintage, here is the Gary Mackay goal against Bulgaria in Sofia in the 87th minute of the match on 11 November 1987 with some context from Jack Charlton - courtesy of YouTube.

Euro 88 Qualifying Campaign - Group Table

1988 European Football Championship - Qualifying Group 7
Goals F
Goals A

Republic of Ireland Euro 88 Qualifiers - Match Results

10/09/1986: Scotland 0-0 Bulgaria
10/09/1986: Belgium 2-2 Ireland
Claesen 14, Scifo 71 / Frank Stapleton 18, Liam Brady 89 Pen

14/10/1986: Luxembourg 0-6 Belgium

15/10/1986: Ireland 0-0 Scotland

12/11/1986: Scotland 3-0 Luxembourg

19/11/1986: Belgium 1-1 Bulgaria

18/02/1987: Scotland 0-1 Ireland
Mark Lawrenson 8

01/04/1987: Bulgaria 2-1 Ireland

Sadkov 41, Tanev 82 Pen / Frank Stapleton 52

01/04/1987: Belgium 4-1 Scotland

29/04/1987: Ireland 0-0 Belgium

30/04/1987: Luxembourg 1-4 Bulgaria

20/05/1987: Bulgaria 3-0 Luxembourg

28/05/1987: Luxembourg 0-2 Ireland
Tony Galvin 44, Ronnie Whelan 64

09/09/1987: Ireland 2-1 Luxembourg
Frank Stapleton 31, Paul McGrath 74 / Krings 28

23/09/1987: Bulgaria 2-0 Belgium

14/10/1987: Scotland 2-0 Belgium
14/10/1987: Ireland 2-0 Bulgaria
Paul McGrath 52, Kevin Moran 85

11/11/1987: Belgium 3-0 Luxembourg
11/11/1987: Bulgaria 0-1 Scotland

02/12/1987: Luxembourg 0-0 Scotland

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