ITALIA 90: a sporting event that changed Ireland forever

Italia 90 was not only an important sporting event but it is also heralded as being an important cultural event in Irish history.

Italia 90 is credited with being something of a watershed moment for Ireland as it breathed new confidence into the country and its people, thanks to the success achieved by the Ireland team on the worldwide stage.

The tournament also brought a feel-good factor and a party atmosphere to Ireland, the likes of which haven’t been seen since.

In this article, we will explore how we believe Italia 90 changed Ireland forever.

Italia 90 a World Cup to remember

Italia 90 was a big moment for Irish football.
Credit: commonswikimedia.org

Italia 90 was the name given to the soccer World Cup in 1990 hosted in Italy. The World Cup is the biggest soccer tournament in the world. Furthermore, it is hosted in different countries every four years by teams across practically every continent competing.

Ireland’s journey at Italia 90 we’ll never forget

Credit: YouTube / CuChoileain

Italia 90 was Ireland’s first-ever World Cup, so it was a truly colossal occasion, not only for the Irish soccer team but also for the Irish nation. It was one of the first times since the foundation of the Irish state that Ireland was being represented on the world stage.

Ireland was drawn into a tough group, group F, which included England, The Netherlands, and Egypt. Many feared that their World Cup journey might be short-lived.

Ireland’s first game was a big one against the old enemy England. Gary Lineker put the English ahead, but Kevin Sheedy scored an equaliser to save the day and a point for the team.

The Italia 90 tournament was a defining moment for Ireland.
Credit: commons.wikimedia.org

Ireland’s second game in the group was against Egypt, which ended in quite a dull 0-0 draw. The Egyptians were heavily criticised for their negative play. Irish manager Jack Charlton was quoted as saying, “I hate teams like that, in fact, I deplore them.”

With two points from two games, Ireland went into their third and final group game against The Netherlands with everything to play for.

When the great star Ruud Gullit put the Dutch ahead, things began to look very grim for Ireland. But, then the magic happened. Niall Quinn scored a leveller in the 71st minute, securing Ireland’s third draw in the group and remarkably a place in the second round of the tournament.

Ireland’s advancement in the tournament up against the Italians

Ireland winning against Romania.
Credit: Facebook / @fifaworldcup

Ireland drew Romania after they had progressed through the group stages. The date was 25 June 1990 in the Stadio Luigi Ferraris in Genoa. Ireland took to the field against the Romanians in what would go down as one of the greatest days in Irish soccer history.

The game itself didn’t exactly set the world alight as it remained 0-0 even after the game went into extra time. After two hours of play, there was nothing to separate the two teams, so a penalty shoot-out beckoned.

Each team scored their first four penalties. On Romania’s 5th penalty, Packie Bonner made a famous save, and so it came to Ireland’s 5th and final penalty, taken by David O Leary. If he scored, Ireland would win the game and be through to the quarter-finals.

You could hear a pin drop as everyone looked on in anticipation with fingers crossed. Then, the unimaginable happened, O Leary successfully scored, and Ireland was through to the quarter-finals of the World Cup!

Everyone in Ireland was singing and dancing and blaring car horns as they drove through the streets across all cities celebrating the historic day.

In the quarter-finals, Ireland was drawn against the tournament hosts, Italy. Despite playing valiantly, the Irish team lost to the Italians 1-0 courtesy of a goal scored by Totò Schillaci.

With that, Ireland’s journey at Italia 90 had come to an end. However, their experience there would never be forgotten by themselves and the Irish nation.

The legacy of Italia 90 weeks of celebration

Italia 90 was momentous for Ireland
Credit: Facebook / @FAIreland

The Irish team came home to Dublin on 1 July 1990 to a crowd of an estimated 500,000 fans. There were 50,000 in the airport alone who wished to celebrate the success of the Irish team at Italia 90.

The party atmosphere continued long into the night throughout Ireland. For those few weeks that Ireland was at the world cup, the whole country seemed to be having a party.

The legacy of Italia 90 was that Ireland had stunned the world by not only qualifying for the world cup and progressing through the group stages, but also by reaching the final eight before being knocked out by a great Italian team.

Ireland had shown that despite being a small nation, it could hold its own on the sporting front.

That concludes our article on how we believe that Italia 90 changed Ireland forever. Do you have memories of Italia 90? Was it as magical a time as it sounds?