The recent RTE Sports Awards was a nice reminder of the multiplicity of Ireland's sporting glory in 2018. There were Grand Slams, four-in-a-rows, World Cup silver medals, European gold medals and.....four international soccer goals. Rather than linger on the horrendous year that was, RTE gave Ray Houghton a hall of fame award and indulged in some Euro '88 nostalgia.
While 2018 was a horror year for the senior men's team (MNT), it wasn't entirely devoid of memorable moments. Here are ten of them...
"Basically just Roy losing his head".
Martin O'Neill confronts referee at under-17 quarter-final
It's unfair to say Martin O'Neill did nothing positive in 2018 - he did have one triumphant moment. Ireland were knocked out of the Under-17 European Championship on penalties by Holland in a shootout blemished by Czech official Zbynek Prosk, a ludicrously fastidious referee. Corcoran was booked for coming off his line during the penalties - a technically correct call, but for an incident that constantly goes unpunished - and left the field in tears.
After Ireland's exit was confirmed, O'Neill descended the stand and stormed onto the field to berate the referee.
Given that the whole country was seething at the injustice of it all, it was the right thing for O'Neill to do. Pity he couldn't maintain that link with supporters.
Ian Morris goal
A contender for the next Puskas award, surely?
Goal of the season contender from Bohemians midfielder Ian Morris. Absolute screamer ? pic.twitter.com/bWBwx9Z7sR
— Photos of Football (@photosofootball) October 8, 2018
Alan Judge scores the winner against the United States
Ireland won just one of their nine games this year - at home to a Pulisic-less United States in an end-of-season friendly in which Declan Rice was outstanding. But there is one thing to take out of the game - the winning goal was scored by Alan Judge, who capped his return following a near two-year absence because of a horror leg break while playing for Brentford. It cost him his place at the Euros and left him disaffected with football for a while, but he battled back to fitness bravely. Proof that there is no such thing as a meaningless international.
See Also: "I Didn’t Watch Football For A Year" - Alan Judge Details His Comeback From Horrific Injury
Bohs' launch their Bob Marley shirt
Bohs shot to the world's attention by releasing a special shirt marking Bob Marley's 1980 gig at Dalymount Park, featuring an embossed image of the great man. There was a flurry of responses - Sligo Rovers were quick off the mark with their Westlife shirt, while rumours that the new Dublin GAA shirt would feature the blank outline of Garth Brooks proved untrue - before reality caught up with Bohs - they didn't have the rights to use an image of Marley to sell merchandise.
Replacing the managerial duo with a duo of managers
There is nothing that fires the Irish public's imagination than the firing of the senior manager, and this time around proved no different. As soon as MONKEANO became GONEKEANO, the FAI ultimately spolied us by appointing not one, but two new managers. The appointment of Mick McCarthy until the end of Euro 2020, and the succession plan that will see Stephen Kenny inculcate himself with the underage teams before taking the senior job reflected very well on the Association and its chief executive.
Cork sign 'a player from the Premiership'
Bohs weren't the only League of Ireland club to make a social media splash in 2018. They signed Damien Delaney from Crystal Palace - with the best wishes of AS Roma, oddly - and then used him to introduce themselves to their Champions League opponents, Legia Warsaw.
Hi @LegiaWarsawEN , nice to meet you. We're @CorkCityFC - the Double Champions of Ireland. We play at Turner's Cross.
We just signed a player from the Premiership and our players score goals from 100+ yards.
See you in a few weeks! #CCFC84 #CityInEurope
— Cork City FC (@CorkCityFC) June 19, 2018
Stephen Kenny was unimpressed - "They’ve signed a ‘Premiership player’ and we’ve signed a player from the First Division" was Kenny's rejection of John Caulfield's claims about Dundalk's financial muscle - and it didn't work out terribly well for Cork.
Delaney struggled with the pace of the league, most notably in a horror first-half showing against Derry City.
Stephen Kenny gets his promotion
Kenny has proved himself to be an outstanding manager at domestic level, and even (most) Shamrock Rovers fans will wish him well at international level. That he got the job is an important endorsement of domestic Irish football, with the FAI belatedly waking up to the necessity of developing player pathways in Ireland, as the days of relying on English academies are long gone.
The draw for Euro 2020
There are few things that Irish fans enjoy more than the jockeying for position after the sacking of the senior manager, but one of the few passions that can rival it is our celebrating the opponent we land in various draws. We've been winning draws for quite a while now, and we were at it again at the Convention Centre at the beginning of December.
The auditorium shifted nervously having initially been drawn into the same group as Holland and Germany for Euro 2020 qualifying, only for the computer to inform everyone present that Ireland couldn't be paired with both teams as each group is limited to only two co-hosts. Instead, Ireland were bumped to a group with Swiss and the Danes (again!)....while Northern Ireland landed in the Group of Death.
Mick McCarthy wore a wry, relieved smile.
Has a single chief executive ever achieved so much?
Robbie Keane steals Noel Hunt's thunder again
You may remember the minor brouhaha of Bari, in which Ireland sealed a late, late equaliser under Trapattoni against then-World Champions Italy. Robbie Keane celebrated the goal, although Noel Hunt also claimed it, and the latter's follow-up for the credit was met with apathy from the FAI, in which they told him they were going to leave the goal with Keane.
While Hunt remained on good terms with Keane, he must have assumed that the days of Keane overshadowing him had ended.
Not so. Having been named Swindon's assistant manager, Hunt announced his retirement as a player on November 28th.
He wasn't the only player to confirm his retirement that day, having taken an assistant coaching role: Robbie did it too.
For a bit of cosmic justice - here's Hunt's farewell statement.
— Noel Hunt (@Noelhunt20) November 28, 2018