One of the reasons Shane Long's goal against the Germans felt instantly memorable was that it was so clearly reminiscent of every memorable goal that Ireland has ever scored since Sepp Blatter invented football.
McCarthy to Randolph to Long - it was straight out of the Jack Chartlon-Packie Bonner playbook. Sure we went wild when Liam Miller scored that screamer against Swedes in Stan's first game, but it wasn't a real Ireland goal. There is a strict formula to every great Ireland goal and the only variations come in the number of defenders the ball hits on its way to its end station. A ball hoofed from an impossible distance by a goalkeeper (or in rare cases, a deep-lying midfielder), a clash of heads, a scramble, a perfectly located Irishman, a befuddled keeper, a horde of Irish fans celebrating wildly. We score those goals in the way Neopolitan's make salty pizza.
We've dusted off the VHS tapes and assessed every great Ireland long ball for degree of difficulty, the distance the ball traveled, and the goalkeeper beaten so behold our definitive rankings of Ireland's greatest longball goals.
6. Kevin Sheedy vs Switzerland, 1985
This goal did not come from the Charlton years but may have been a harbinger for them. (Jump to 1.24). Seamus McDonagh hits the ball a mile into the air and either the Swiss defense could not conceive of a goalkeeper trying to reach a striker in one kick, or a freak wind had its way with this ball, because it's impossible to understand how Sheedy could have found himself so far ahead of the Swiss backline.
5. Kevin Sheedy vs England 1990
It shouldn't be forgotten that Kevin Sheedy's equaliser against England was directly the work of a goalkick from Bonner to Niall Quinn. Kevin Sheedy made a meal of Terry Butcher's clearance header but luckily Steve McMahon, on the field for just a few minutes, made more of a meal of Sheedy's speculative pass.
4. Ray Houghton vs Italy 1994
The quality of this goal is unquestionable, though it is quite different from your classic Irish longball goal. Sheridan supplied the long ball to Coyne from well inside his half. Coyne makes contact with ball, pulling Baresi towards him and creating space for Houghton. Baresi's clearance was lazy and Houghton's shot was incredible. None of it could have happened without the defensive strife brought on by John Sheridan long ball and Coyne's header.
3. Niall Quinn vs Holland, 1990
One of the worst goals ever conceded in football history and a sign of how the long ball can totally flutter defenses. A titanic Bonner kickout landed in the path of van Aerle who was running backwards. His backpass must have totally spooked the keeper van Breukelen because he spilled the ball right into the path of Niall Quinn. The ball did not touch an Ireland outfield player until Quinn stood on the margins of the 6 yard box. Asinine goalkeeping, but a sign of how truly terrifying it must be for keepers and defenders to deal with a ball dropping down from the heavens.
2. Shane Long vs Germany 2015
It was only when I saw the German footage of this goal that I truly appreciated its quality. After the Irish midfield take back possession, McCarthy placed a firm pass into Randolph clearly intended to create a long ball scoring situation. There is debate in the office whether Randolph was targeting Walters, who was strolling around offside, or Long, but Long runs an incredible channel here, finding space between Hector and Hummels, right where the ball drops. Long touches the ball once and then finishes past the best keeper in the world.
1. Robbie Keane vs Germany, 2002
Arguably the greatest long ball goal in football history. The amount of skill it took for Niall Quinn to perfectly position a) his body in front of the defender and then b) his head, so that he could perfectly redirect Kinsella's arcing long ball into Robbie Keane's path boggles my mind. It's a goal that reminds you that the long ball is the work of the aesthete, not the cavemen. Quinn's header bounces once and Keane taps it with his right boob before stepping over Ramelow and swiveling his body. Robbie's strike lacks the raw power of Long's shot --- in fact it was helped here by some clumsy defending by Ramelow and Kahn does get some body on the shot. Still Kahn was the best player at the World Cup and this long ball goal was the only he'd concede at Japan/Korea until the World Cup final. A thing of beauty.