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 a watershed moment for Ireland as it instilled new confidence in the country and its people, thanks to the Irish team’s success on the world stage.

The tournament also brought a feel-good factor and party atmosphere to Ireland which has not been seen since.

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

Italy 90 an unforgettable world cup

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

Italia 90 was the name given to the 1990 FIFA World Cup held in Italy. The World Cup is the biggest football tournament in the world. Moreover, it is organized in different countries every four years by teams from practically all continents competing.

Ireland’s trip to Italia 90 we will never forget

Credit: YouTube / CuChoileain

Italy 90 was the very first World Cup in Ireland, so it was a truly colossal occasion, not only for the Irish football team but also for the Irish nation. It was one of the first times since the founding of the Irish state that Ireland was represented on the world stage.

Ireland were drawn into a tough group, Group F, which included England, the Netherlands and Egypt. Many feared their World Cup run would be short-lived.

Ireland’s first game was an important one against old foes England. Gary Lineker put England ahead but Kevin Sheedy scored an equalizer to save the day and a point for the team.

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

Ireland’s second match in the group was against Egypt, which ended in a lackluster 0-0 draw. The Egyptians have been heavily criticized for their negative play. Irish manager Jack Charlton is quoted as saying: “I hate teams like that, in fact, I regret them.”

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

When big star Ruud Gullit gave the Dutch the lead things started to get very bleak for Ireland. But, then the magic happened. Niall Quinn equalized 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 progress in the tournament against the Italians

Ireland win over Romania.
Credit: Facebook / @fifaworldcup

Ireland drew Romania after advancing through the group stages. It was June 25, 1990 at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris in Genoa. Ireland took to the pitch against the Romanians in what was to become one of the greatest days in Irish football history.

The game itself didn’t exactly set the world on fire as it remained 0-0 even after the game went into extra time. After two hours of play, nothing separated the two teams, so a penalty shootout was announced.

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

You could hear a pin drop as everyone watched expectantly with their fingers crossed. Then the unimaginable happened, O Leary scored successfully and Ireland qualified for the quarter-finals of the World Cup!

Everyone in Ireland was singing, dancing and honking their horns as they walked through the streets of every town to celebrate the historic day.

In the quarter-finals, Ireland were drawn against tournament hosts Italy. Despite a valiant game, the Irish team lost against the Italians 1-0 thanks to a goal scored by Totò Schillaci.

With that, Ireland’s journey to Italia 90 was complete. However, their experience there would never be forgotten by themselves and the Irish nation.

The legacy of Italy 90 party weeks

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

The Irish team returned to Dublin on 1 July 1990 to a crowd of around 500,000 fans. There were 50,000 at the airport alone who wanted to celebrate the Irish team’s success at Italia 90.

The party atmosphere continued late into the night across Ireland. During those few weeks when Ireland were at the World Cup, the whole country seemed to have celebrated.

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

Ireland have shown that despite being a small nation, they can hold their own on a sporting level.

This concludes our article on how we think Italia 90 changed Ireland forever. Do you have memories of Italy 90? Was it as magical a moment as it seems?


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