A Tribute To The Strangest Assists In Irish Football History

A Tribute To The Strangest Assists In Irish Football History

In some countries, assists are associated with tricky little playmakers, guys who operate in that extremely glamorous position between the midfield and the front man. In Ireland, they are synonymous with beanpole centre-forwards, flick-on merchants whose job is to be big and awkward.

Ireland do a nice line in messy or unusual assists. Here are a few examples of the strangest assists in Irish football history.

Caleb Folan's back

Folan's back was the key to unlocking the Italian defence that night in Bari in 2009.

The character of the match was such that it allowed Ireland dominate the ball for 70 whole minutes. First, Italy went ahead early on and then they had a man sent off (somewhat harshly) for a supposed elbow. In those circumstances, an Italian team were only going to do one thing: Concentrate on defending their position.

This they did well until the hectic closing stages. Ireland patiently knocked the ball around the massed and intelligent Italian defence without carving them open. Predictably enough, salvation did not come through a subtle through ball or an intricate but through Caleb Folan's back.

Shay Given lashed the ball high towards the penalty area. Folan made himself awkward and with his back delightfully laid the ball into the path of Robbie Keane/Noel Hunt.


What happened next split the country. And Irish striker swept the ball into the net. The goal was given to Robbie Keane. Noel Hunt objected, saying it was he who got the important touch and he took his case to the airwaves.

Civil war ensued with the country being divided into Huntites and Keanians. Brother fought against brother as whole families were torn apart.

Mick McCarthy

Before anyone had heard of Rory Delap, Mick McCarthy was the king of the throw-in. He more or less laid this goal on a plate for Ronnie Whelan, who only had to launch himself into the air and volley (foot or shin, it didn't even matter) the ball into the far corner.


Packie Bonner

Ireland's goalkeeper/deep-lying playmaker Packie Bonner was the last Irish player to touch the ball before Niall Quinn slid in to equalise against the Dutch. In many respects, this is the signature goal of the Charlton era. As he told people in those First Call Direct ads, no team of his was afraid of taking the direst route to goal.


Steve Staunton

Ireland's last big win of the Charlton era came via a rather unusual own goal from Portugal's goalkeeper Vitor Baia. Steve Staunton forced his way to the end line and managed to turn the ball into the six-yard box. It wasn't the most artful cross ever struck. However, John Aldridge's presence appeared to put Baia off and he allowed the ball to squirt under his arm Taibi style and trundle over the line.

Ray Houghton 

'And Frank Stapleton has done it!' It transpired he hadn't. Rather it was Michel who sent the ball skittering into the corner. Ray Houghton, buzzing around as ever, sent in a low cross which wasn't exactly fizzing with pace. Despite this, Michel was unable to sort out his feet and the ball nestled in the corner.


It would be remiss not to mention the Lansdowne Road pitch at this point.

Seamus McDonagh

A fairly weird goal from Ireland's 3-0 win over Switzerland in their otherwise forgettable 1986 World Cup qualifying campaign.

Goalkeeper Seamus McDonagh just lamped the ball forward, a move which managed to put Kevin Sheedy straight through on goal after Switzerland's disastrous attempt at an offside trap.

Picture credit: Sportsfile

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