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Empty Stands: The Unspectacular History of Ireland Vs. Wales In Pictures

Empty Stands: The Unspectacular History of Ireland Vs. Wales In Pictures
By Michael McCarthy

It's the glamour tie of our World Cup group. Ireland are on a roll, just back from the Euros and top of the group, on the precipice of our first consecutive qualification since 1990. Wales are the big dogs. European Championship semi finalists, and with a Champions League winning Real Madrid superstar in their ranks. You can't get a ticket anywhere (Except here).

And yet when you look back on our history with one of our closest neighbours, it's anything but glamorous.

Until the Steve Staunton era (the Euro 2008 Qualifiers), Ireland had never even played Wales in a competitive game.

Before that, we played them four times in sporadic friendlies between 1960 and 1990, losing all four games, the last of which was Jack Charlton's first game in charge in 1986. But then, like so much in Irish football, it all changed in 1990. Oddly, the friendly against Wales that year was the first of four friendly internationals against them in the coming four years. Of course, as this was peak Charlton Years, Ireland won three of these games, only losing a February '92 encounter at the RDS.

From there, an early Mick McCarthy friendly in 1997 served up a memorable 0-0 draw in Cardiff and, lamentably, that was the end of the hefty friendly schedule between the two countries.

Our next fixture against Wales came 10 years later, the first ever football game played in Croke Park, and a 1-0 win that was the start of the best week of Steve Staunton's regime. By the time the return fixture happens, Stan was gone, and Don Givens took charge of a 2-2 draw in front of less than 25,000 in the Millennium Stadium.

In the ten years since, we've been back on the friendly circuit with Wales, returning the favour of an empty ground in the Aviva Stadium for a 3-0 win the Carling Nations Cup, and a 0-0 draw in Cardiff City Stadium in 2013 that nobody currently in the Balls.ie office has any recollection of whatsoever.

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The venues for a lot of these games have been quite shady, illustrating the fact this hasn't always been the glamour tie tomorrow night's affair will be. Yes, they've played in Croke Park, the Aviva Stadium and the Millennium Stadium, but we've also had Vetch Field, Tolka Park, Wrexham's Racecourse Ground, Ninian Park, and the RDS.

Ireland's overall record against Wales is incredible even.

P13 W5 D3 L5 F14 A13

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Our first game against Wales in Dalymount Park, 1960, the first of four consecutive friendly defeats over the next 26 years.

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1981 in Tolka Park, our third defeat in a row to Wales, despite some some lovely tracksuits, top class facial hair and a youthful Chris Hughton.

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Colour camera still hadn't been invented in Ireland for Big Jack's first game in 1986.

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Not a great crowd in Lansdowne for the start of the new era for Liam Brady's team.

The most memorable thing to happen in Jack's first game, and Ireland's first win over Wales, was Neville Southall breaking his leg. The stretcher lads leaving nothing to chance here.

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Colour camera had arrived by 1997 after four more uneventful friendlies between the countries. The battle of John Hartson and Big Paul wasn't enough to draw in the crowds in the first ever game between the two sides in Cardiff. A 0-0 draw.

 

At least a decent crowd showed up for the first international football game played in Croke Park.

A big day for young Stephen Ireland, a star for the Boys in Green for years to come, no doubt.

The Gaffer's best week as Ireland mananger started here.

Damien Duff skins unknown Welsh left back Gareth Bale.

 

Stan's good times didn't last much longer and he was already gone by the time the return fixture came around. The Don was in.

Another massive crowd

This game also starts the inexplicable tradition of one team wearing away colours for the fixture.

 

The 2008 Euro Qualifiers were a big deal, but they were nothing compared to the Carling Nations Cup in 2011. And how to crowds showed their support.

 

Maybe people stayed home to watch the first ever Ireland match broadcast in 3D 

Martin Tyler and Kevin Moran loved it.

The fever pitch for this fixture still hadn't died down when the last time they played in 2013. Another capacity crowd.

SEE ALSO:  Win Two Tickets To The Massive Ireland-Wales Game

SEE ALSO: Watch: Robbie Keane's Emotional Monologue To Irish Fans Will Have You Calling For Welsh Heads

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