Ireland at Euro 1988 Finals
Less than two years after taking up the job as the Republic of Ireland manager Jack Charlton led the Irish football team to it’s first ever major championship finals. After coming close on previous occasions, particularly under John Giles and Eoin Hand, Charlton delivered the holy grail of Irish football supporters on his first attempt.
Courtesy of a very late winning goal from Scotland’s Gary Mackay against Bulgaria in Sofia in November 1987 Ireland topped group 7 in the Euro 88 qualification campaign.
Euro 88 Finals
The former West Germany hosted the Euro 1988 finals. The competition comprised two groups of four teams each. The winners of each group would play the runners-up of the other group in the semi-finals.
The hosts were drawn in Group A alongside Denmark, Italy and Spain. The Irish were drawn in Group B with the Netherlands, the former Soviet Union, and the old enemy, England. The Irish matches were drawn as follows:
Ireland v England in Stuttgart
On the 12th of June 1988 in Stuttgart the Irish football team took to the pitch in it’s first match at a major championship finals competition. As fate would have it England would provide the opposition on this momentous occasion. Ray Houghton of Liverpool FC scored the only goal of the match as Ireland recorded a memorable and historic victory. The Irish triumphed against all of the odds and in the face of major pressure from a dominant English team.
Ireland v Soviet Union in Hanover
Moving on from that historic victory over the English Ireland took on the former Soviet Union on the following Wednesday evening. In one of the best Irish performances during the Jack Charlton era Ireland took the game by the scruff of the neck and were the better team. It was no surprise when Ireland took the lead late in the first half via a spectacular volley from Liverpool’s Ronnie Whelan. Unfortunately for both Whelan and Ireland the lead was cancelled out midway through the second half by Oleh Protasov as the match ended in a 1-1 draw.
Ireland v Holland in Gelsenkirchen
Ireland went into the last group match against the Netherlands knowing that a win or a draw would earn a place in the Euro 88 semi-finals. Despite a heroic rear guard action by the Irish which saw them hold out until the 83rd minute it was not to be.
Having hit the post in the first half through Manchester United defender Paul McGrath header the Irish eventually lost out to a freakish goal from Vim Kieft. Playing at right-back, the outstanding McGrath headed clear late in the match.
Ronald Koeman volleyed the ball back but it went straight into the ground and began spinning wildly. Kieft glanced it on towards the goal. Just as the ball appeared to be heading past a diving Packie Bonner, and wide of the far post, the spin on the ball took it beyond Bonner’s finger tips but inside the post. Holland won 1-0 and the Irish were heading home.
Euro 1988 Group B Final Table
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