Eamon Dunphy's Reaction To Ireland-Italy In 1990 May Surprise You

Eamon Dunphy's Reaction To Ireland-Italy In 1990 May Surprise You

We're all reeling from anniversary fatigue at this point. But, fear not eye-rollers, the end is nigh. For, on 30 June, Ireland played the most significant match in their history.

Despite the result, the game, like everything else in Italia 90, is still regarded in a positive light. Even the name of Toto Schillachi is recalled with affection, although we don't have the figures to hand to show how his acting skills impacted Smithwicks' sales.

Eamon Dunphy had a traumatic summer. His car was besieged by plastic hammer bearing Irish fans at Dublin airport and, more seriously, his kids were bullied when they attempted to join in the celebrations after the penalty shoot-out against Romania.

During his assignments in Italy he was serenaded with the newly coined chant, 'If you hate Eamon Dunphy, clap your hands. If you hate fucking Eamon Dunphy, clap your hands.'

Back in Dublin, taxi drivers were refusing to take him in their cars.


In addition to his duties with RTE, he was a star columnist (as opposed to a 'Star columnist') with the Sunday Independent in those days, where he enjoyed a licence to write about far more than just sport. Over the next few years, he would continue to castigate the IRA, and Mary Robinson for meeting with Gerry Adams (naturally, all these years later, he is an avowed Sinn Fein voter), libel Prionsias De Rossa and cost Independent Newspapers a truckload of money, and announce that he planned to vote 'No' in the Divorce Referendum.

His reputation for contrarianism was copper-fastened in the summer of 1990. It was the People v Eamon Dunphy. The great curmudgeon, forever attacking the green balloons and inflatable hammers with pins.

However, his report of the Ireland-Italy game strikes a different note. In short, he surrendered to the mood of the day. And captured it beautifully. Perhaps browbeaten by all the hostility, it reads like a late plea for admission to the bandwagon.

Ireland lost with honour in the World Cup quarter-final against Italy in Rome last night. Salvatore Schillaci scored the goal that brought our glorious crusade to an end. But long before that wicked 38th minute goal, Ireland's World Cup campaign had ceased to be about football.

Ditching the football, which even the most casual of football fans know he found rather plebian, Dunphy boldly proclaimed a new Ireland.

The world has discovered a new Ireland. Ireland has discovered a new self... There will be other World Cups but Ireland will never be the same thanks to the young men who played soccer for us those past few golden weeks.


Italy received an astonishing 32 free kicks from the Portuguese referee Carlos Silva Valente, compared to 12 for Ireland. While Ireland were always likely to concede more free kicks, even the Italian papers agreed that Mr. Silva Valente was rather protective of the Italian attackers.

Unsurprisingly, Mick McCarthy, who proudly boasts of committing the most fouls at the World Cup, made a substantial contribution towards the Italian free count.

Dunphy, in misty-eyed mood and inclined to ponder the significance of the summer beyond the football, did, nonetheless, praise the Irish play. Ireland had played some decent stuff early on the game in particular. But Dunphy cited one instance, five minutes from the end, which summed up the Irish resilience.  

One moment more than anything reflected almost everything we have come to admire in these players; five minutes from the end Kevin Moran made a marvellous interception to stop an Italian counter-attack.

The ball flew from his boot just beyond his reach, but he sprinted after it, and won the ensuing tackle with the blue shirt in his way. Kevin, clean, courageous and defiant.

He finished with this stirring and wholly correct prediction.

We are coming home today. We will be remembered here. And remember this as a golden time. We could hardly have asked for more.

Conor Neville
Article written by
Perennial finalist in stand-up comedy competitions and former Contract Lawyer/ Coal Salesman with Corless, Corless and Sweeney

You may also like