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Irish Football's Greatest Moral Victories Of The 21st Century

Gavin Cooney
By Gavin Cooney
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On today's edition of our daily podcast the Racket we set forth the theory that the 1916 Rising was Ireland's first, and arguably greatest moral victory of the twentieth century. The theory stemmed from John Delaney's hope that the Irish footballers of 2016 can become heroes in the year of the centenary of the Rising. Listen below: 

Inspired by the above, here are Ireland's greatest moral victories of the 21st century.

France 1-1 Ireland AET November 18, 2009 

The daddy of them all. Having been largely soporific in the home leg at Croke Park, settled by a Nicolas Anelka goal, Ireland went to Paris and produced their finest display under Giovanni Trapattoni.

A performance of great vim and vigour yielded a Robbie Keane goal, brilliantly assisted by Damien Duff.

Ireland were the better side, and should have finished the game off in normal time. Duff, most notably, squandered a chance when one-on-one with Hugo Lloris.

Ireland's failure to finish Raymond Domenech's French side led us to extra time, and you all know what happened in the 102nd minute:


As many pointed out, Henry's double handball would even have been a foul in basketball.


With Ireland's footing assured upon the moral high ground,we called foul against the highest echelons in football.

The Irish players blamed referee Martin Hansson for not spotting Henry's transgression, with Damien Duff saying that "You can't blame him. He's a clever player – but you expect the ref to see it, it was so blatant".

Robbie Keane targeted the highest figures in football: "They're all probably clapping hands, Platini sitting up there on the phone to Sepp Blatter, probably texting each other, delighted with the result".


John Delaney went right to the top, and asked Sepp Blatter for Ireland to be given special dispensation be given a spot alongside France at the finals. This would make Ireland the 33rd team at the World Cup, which would be a logistical disaster and upset the symmetry of the competition. This reaction led to one of the most humiliating episodes in Irish sport: being laughed at by Sepp Blatter and a room of FIFA officials.

Denied dispensation, the FAI did at least get compensation: Delaney accepted a five million euro payment from Blatter.

Possibly the greatest overreaction of all came from one caller to Liveline, who suggested the nation should boycott Cuisine de France products in protest, which is an Irish company.


As per, Roy Keane extricated himself from it all:

Spain 1 - 1 Ireland (Spain win 3-2 on penalties), 16 June 2002

The entire 2002 World Cup campaign felt like a backlash against Roy Keane's decision to leave the squad in Saipan. This was a youthful Irish team, spearheaded by Duff and Robbie Keane.


Following draws against Cameroon and Germany, Ireland faced Spain in the last 16. Falling behind to an early goal by Fernando Morientes, Ireland battled back, with Robbie Keane equalising from the penalty spot in the final minute of normal time.

Ireland were eventually eliminated on penalties, with Mick McCarthy praising his 'brave' squad, saying that Irleand deserved to win in normal time.


He was right: Ian Harte saw a penalty saved by Santiago Canizares before Keane's last minute equaliser.

Ireland played fantastically well, with Damien Duff in precocious form. Sadly, we paid for a failure to take our chances, and bowed out of the tournament. All we could comfort ourselves was the quality of the performance in the absence of Keane. Oh, and this stat, which we may not be seeing for a very long time:

Republic of Ireland 0-0 Germany, 13 October 2007

For those who cannot remember a time before the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign, there was once a time in Irish football when we didn't beat Germany at home, and occasionally we celebrated draws against them.

Such a scenario arose in Steve Staunton's only qualifying campaign in charge ahead of Euro 2008. Ireland narrowly lost 1-0 to the Germans before collapsing 5-2 in Cyprus.

Ireland welcomed the Germans to Croke Park in October 2007 needing a win, while Germany would qualify with a draw.

Ireland turned in a creditable performance against the side that would finish second in Euro 2008, as it became only the second time in the group that Germany dropped points.

It was ultimately in vain, however,  as the draw left Ireland needing a miracle to qualify for the Euros.

It was, however, a dignified way to begin the end of Steve Staunton's doomed reign.

Also Read: The Time Has Come For Us To Forgive Steve Staunton For Being So Shite As Ireland Manager

Sweden 0-0 Ireland, 21 March 2013

This was seen as a good result at the time, but subsequent games rendered it nothing but a moral victory as Ireland failed to reach the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Robbie Keane and Shane Long both spurned early chances before Sweden grew into the game. David Forde made several fine saves to quell ther Swedes, with Ireland also managing to limit the influence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

The result left us just a point behind the second-placed Swedes, but a last minute equaliser for Austria in Dublin four days later was utterly deflating, cancelling out the fine work in Stockholm.

Sweden would later win 2-1 in Dublin, to compound a miserable qualification campaign.


Ireland 0-0 Brazil, 19 February 2004

Ireland's record against Brazil is decidedly mixed. We have played them seven times, and have lost five of those, one of which was our record defeat (7-0).

The 2004 friendly was our first game against Brazil since a 1-0 win in 1987.

Ireland, under Brian Kerr, had failed to qualify for the Euros ( a campaign hamstrung by the slow start under Mick McCarthy) and this draw against the then-world champions offered us much hope ahead of the 2006 World Cup qualifying campaign.

The thought that we were capable of b̶o̶r̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶B̶r̶a̶z̶i̶l̶ ̶i̶n̶t̶o̶ ̶s̶u̶b̶m̶i̶s̶s̶i̶o̶n̶  competing against the mighty Brazil was encouraging.

The Guardian match report ticked off a few of the characteristics of the moral victory:

More results of this sort and Brian Kerr's team will approach a World Cup qualifying group that includes France in good heart.

Though it is always dangerous to read too much into friendlies, Kerr's players can take confidence from their efforts last night. They matched their opponents for good spells, particularly in the first half, defended with discipline and will even reflect that they could have won...

Rather than looking back at their failure to reach Portugal, they will now look forward with hope.

It was, alas, misplaced hope: Ireland failed to reach the World Cup and Kerr, perhaps harshly, paid for the failure with his job.

See Also: John Delaney Has Invoked The Easter Rising As We Look Ahead To Euro 2016

See Also: Irish Sports Films: Escape To Moral Victory


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