One of the few upsides of Ireland not qualifying for a faraway major tournament is the fact that tens of thousands of us have been spared from parting with ridiculous sums of money to traipse around an exotic destination in an optimistic haze of excitement and anticipation - all done on a diet of 95% booze, 5% fags and kebabs.
The qualification of our national football team for a World Cup or Euros is often credited as the starting point of all sorts of wonderful things: a boost for the bar trade, a spike in the birth rate, a vague (but often very real) sense of shared public experience and, depending on who you believe, the growth of our national economy from ag-dependent backwater to coke-hoovering false dawn back to hollowed-out banana republic.
All of those things are either too rare to matter much, hugely irrelevant or just patently false, but one thing that we very tangibly miss out on when we fail to qualify is the wonderful World Cup memorabilia. Here are our favourites - some are well-loved touchstones of Irish popular culture, some are long-forgotten curiosities, and others are just plain weird.
Let us know what we've missed, and be sure to share with us your own favourite Irish sporting keepsakes.
I concede that inflatable products are widely available at all times, but they only come into their own during major tournaments. In 1990 the Fyffes banana was de rigueur, followed by a more general array of tricolour and shamrock bits and bobs in '94. Two years ago in Poland, there was a curious proliferation of orange inflatable guitars, which may or may not have been related to the fact that Eurovision favourite "Rock and Roll Kids" was something of an alternative fan anthem - probably because we were as far from footballing rock and roll as we've been since John Charles McQuaid was demanding boycotts of international matches.
This terrifying dog... thing
Apparently he answered to the groanworthy moniker of 'McCúl' or perhaps "Macul'. Here is having the craic on the Late Late with a plethora of pre-Tiger irish sporting celebs such as Dublin 'keeper John O'Leary, Tony Ward, Mick Dowling, and a far-too-enthusiatic Eamonn Coghlan. You will also notice the presence of an inflatable shamrock, as discussed above. He was mostly associated with then-sponsors Opel so presumably he made a one-way trip to the vets when Eircom came on the scene around 2000.
Jack Charlton teabags
They were a thing.
— Kevin Oliver Murray (@Kevnmur) June 2, 2014
The old reliable Panini album
Awful, awful tricolour clothing
Christ. Waistcoats, shorts, underwear, wigs - along with the various inflatables, these made up the uniform of the much-derided olé-olé brigade, disliked and distrusted by Dunphy and other 'real football people'.
These were great - pull a little tab and they would expand to reveal a host of stats and info on the player in question.
World Cup Callcards
Callcards were very much in vogue in the mid-90s when mobile phones were a minority interest. The card above is a fantasitc bit of memorabilia, but this one is just... weird. Not only does it depict Richie Sadlier, it's from 2002. I could've sworn call cards were obsolete even then.
Commemorative Italia '90 milk bottles
The existence of these wonderful things says more about that whole era than I can with mere words.
Back at home in Ireland. My dad found this wonderful piece of Italia 90 nostalgia: pic.twitter.com/1sAl8We9MT
— Miguel Delaney (@MiguelDelaney) June 2, 2014
If one image comes to mind when I think of USA '94, it's not Houghton's front flip or Maradona's bulging eyes, it's this O'Neills masterpiece.