Eoin Hand – Irish Soccer Manager
In April 1980 Eoin Hand became the manager of the Republic of Ireland football team following the resignation of Alan Kelly Snr just one match into his international management career. At the age of 34 Hand was one of the youngest international managers at the time of his appointment.
Hand had played football in the League of Ireland, in England, and for the Irish senior team. He had also managed Limerick United and was to the forefront of Irish domestic soccer.
Eoin Hand Football Background
Eoin Hand was born in Dublin on 30th March 1946. As a schoolboy he played for Stella Maris and during the different stages of his League of Ireland career he played for Dundalk FC, Shelbourne FC, Drumcondra, Shamrock Rovers and Limerick United.
Hand had two separate stints playing football in England. He signed as 17 year old from Stella Maris to Swindon Town but he did not make the breakthrough so he returned to Dublin. Following some impressive performances for Drums he signed for Portsmouth for a fee of £8,000 in 1968.
Following almost 300 appearances for Pompey he returned to Ireland as player manager of Limerick United. He had an immediate positive impact winning the League of Ireland title in the 1979-80 title.
Eoin Hand – International Career
Eoin Hand made his debut for the Republic of Ireland on 4th May 1969 at Dalymount Park in a 1-2 defeat to Czechoslovakia in a 1970 World Cup qualifier. Hand went on to win 20 caps with Ireland but was only on the winning side on five occasions. One of which was his last cap in a 4-0 victory against Turkey in a 1976 European Championship qualifier. This was match memorable because Don Givens scored all four goals including the fastest Irish international hat trick. Givens scored the first three goals in a nine minute spell.
Eoin Hand as Republic of Ireland Manager
Due to his success in domestic Irish football Eoin Hand was appointed as caretaker manager of the Republic of Ireland senior football team following the premature resignation by former manager Alan Kelly Snr. Following his first match in charge the FAI decided to make the appointment permanent.
Eoin Hand’s First Match as Irish Football Manager
On the 16th May 2008 Eoin Hand fielded his first Irish team at Lansdowne Road (now Aviva Stadium) against the mighty Argentineans. Argentina won this friendly encounter 0-1.
Developments During the Eoin Hand Management Era
Eoin Hand used a much more direct playing style than his predecessor John Giles. The Giles approach had been based upon retaining possession and building attacks slowly from defence. Hand adopted a much more direct approach which many fans found a refreshing change.
Another development during Eoin Hand’s time as Irish manager was the greater exploitation of the infamous Granny Rule. A relaxation in the FIFA qualification criteria meant that many second-generation Irish players whose families had emigrated to Britain declared for the Republic of Ireland. Notably these included Tony Cascarino, Tony Galvin and future Irish football manager, Mick McCarthy.
1982 World Cup Qualifiers – Eoin Hand’s First Competitive Challenge
The last match of John Giles’ time in charge of the Irish team had been a 3-2 away win in Cyprus in the opening match of the 1982 World Cup qualifiers. Eoin Hand’s first competitive match as Irish manager was the second group match at home to the Netherlands. Goals from Gerry Daly and Mark Lawrenson gave the Irish a 2-1 win over the Dutch at Lansdowne Road. This was a promising start to the World cup qualification campaign however a 1-1 home draw with Belgium and an away loss to France took the gloss off. A 6-0 defeat of Cyprus returned some of the confidence as Ireland headed off to Belgium for the return match.
Not for the first time in Irish football history poor refereeing decisions denied the Irish. Frank Stapleton had a perfectly good goal disallowed and the 89th minute winner by Ceulemans was allowed to stand despite a blatant foul on goalkeeper Jim McDonagh. Despite a very good draw away to the Netherlands and an impressive 3-2 victory of the Michel Platini-led French in Lansdowne Road, Ireland finished in third place in the group. Just a single point behind group winners Belgium. France, who finished ahead of Ireland on goal difference, also qualified for the 1982 World Cup in Spain and went on to have a very good tournament.
This was as good as it would get for Eoin Hand as Irish soccer manager.
Disastrous Tour to South America in 1982
In 1982 Eoin Hand took an Irish squad on an ill-advised football tour to Chile, Brazil, and Trinidad & Tobago. The Irish squad was shorn of most it’s best players as evidenced by the performances and results on the tour. Ireland lost the opening match of the tour 1-0 to Chile. This was followed by the heaviest defeat ever suffered by the Republic of Ireland. In Uberlandia the best Brazilian team that never won the World Cup, thrashed the Irish 7-0. These goals included three from Brazilian greats Socrates and Zico. It was men against boys. Matters did not improve when the Irish team lost 2-1 to lowly Trinidad & Tobago. The tour was a complete disaster – three losses, ten goals conceded, and just one goal scored.
1984 European Championship Qualification Campaign
Ireland began the 1984 European Championship qualifiers on the back of four straight defeats (Algeria had beaten Ireland 2-0 before the tour to South America). Morale and confidence was at an extremely low ebb. An opening group defeat at the hands of the Dutch in Rotterdam was almost an inevitability – and so it prove to be. Results did not improve as the group matches unfolded as Ireland only registered one point from a possible eight against the strongest teams in the group. Eoin Hand’s men did take full points from Iceland and Malta including registering Ireland’s largest victory every. On 16 November 1983 Ireland beat Malta 8-0 at Lansdowne Road. Ireland finished the group campaign with just 9 points in third position in the table.
1986 World Cup Qualification Campaign
Despite the poor European campaign, complaints about his tactics, accusations of an inability to manage some of the players in the Irish squad, and a botched attempt to replace him with former Liverpool FC manager, Bob Paisley, Eoin Hand was still manager of the Irish team for the beginning of the 1986 World Cup qualifiers. The campaign got off to a positive start with a 1-0 victory over Russia however the only other win that Hand’s men could muster was a home win over Switzerland. Particular low points in the group were a very inept 0-0 draw at home to Norway, and a humiliating 1-4 home defeat to Denmark. Ireland finished in fourth place in the group with just six points out of a possible 16. This was Eoin Hand’s last campaign as Irish manager.
Eoin Hand – Record as Irish Football Manager
An interesting aspect of Eoin Hand’s record as Republic of Ireland manager is that he has the distinction of being the manager for both Ireland’s heaviest defeat (7-0 by Brazil) and Ireland’s biggest victory (8-0 against Malta). Both of these results were recorded within eighteen months of each other.
Republic of Ireland Football Managers – Irish Manager’s Records
Mick Meagan – Liam Tuohy – Sean Thomas – John Giles – Alan Kelly Snr – Eoin Hand – Jack Charlton
Irish Football Players
John Aldridge – George Best – Packie Bonner – Liam Brady – Shay Brennan – Noel Cantwell – Johnny Carey