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How A Bun Changed The Course Of Irish Football History

How A Bun Changed The Course Of Irish Football History
By Conor O'Leary

It's strange to think how different things would be after seemingly innocuous incidences. But the story of one bun in the 1970's changed the course of Ireland's history. To explain, we need to fast forward from the throwing of the bun.

The year was 1980. The Ireland team, with Liam Brady at the helm had had a poor 1980 Eurpean Championships qualifying campaign after narrowly missing out on the World Cup in 1978. John Giles decided that he had taken the Ireland team as far as he could as manager, and the job was up for grabs.

Ireland had a good squad featuring the likes of Kevin Moran, Chris Hughton, Mark Lawrenson and Frank Stapleton to compliment the talents of Liam Brady.

Eoin Hand won a narrow vote amongst the FAI officials to win the manager's job, and while Ireland went close to reaching the World Cup in 1982, ultimately Hand's reign ended with three failed qualifications before Jack Charlton arrived and things started taking an upturn.

Ireland never made the most of the peak years of Liam Brady and Mark Lawrenson during Hand's time by not reaching a major tournament. But what if things had been different. What if that vote amongst FAI officials had gone the other way.

Paddy Mulligan was the other contender for the job. Mulligan was a star of the Chelsea teams of the early 1970's that beat the giants of Real Madrid.

The story goes that one FAI official claimed that the 50 cap Irish international threw a bun at him, and he was never going to vote for Mulligan after that. Speaking on the RTE's Different Sport podcast, Mulligan said of footballers that get bored:

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I happened to pick up a bun and throw it in the direction of whoever but it hit an FAI official.

I got beaten by two votes, 9-7, by Eoin. Eoin went on and did a good job for a few years. It went a bit sour for him at the end but that was just one of those things.

Ireland's fortunes could have changed enormously after that. Mulligan had a minor managerial career after this episode, taking charge of Galway United and Shelbourne over the course of three years.

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Had he been able to get the best out of a side with Brady and Stapleton then Ireland might have qualified for some of these tournaments, and when 1985 came there wouldn't have been a need for the FAI to approach Jack Charlton and the 'granny rule' wouldn't have come into prominence and Ireland would be in a very different place. The same thing can be said if Mulligan had proved to do a worse job than Hand, and Hand's replacement would have needed to be installed before Charlton was out of work after managing Newcastle.

Oh what might have been but for a bun.

See Also: FAI Programme Isn't Too Kind To Paddy Mulligan

[RTE]

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