Ranking The Top 10 Goals Which Shook Ireland

Ranking The Top 10 Goals Which Shook Ireland
By Conor Neville
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Which goal caused the greatest explosion of emotion in Irish football history? The goals that shook the country.

Goals like Wes's against Sweden and Ronnie's against the USSR - the two best goals Ireland have scored in major comps - have been excluded because both were subsequently cancelled out by equalisers.

Here are the top 10.

10. John O'Shea v Germany, Gelsenkirchen 2014

A classic 'IT'S THERE!!!' moment from George Hamilton as John O'Shea screwed a right footed volley into the corner after Jeff Hendrick had brilliantly kept an overhead cross alive.


9. Gary Mackay v Bulgaria, Sofia 1987


RTE were enthusiastic enough to send George Hamilton over to Sofia for the game. The RTE crew traveled over on the same plane as the Scottish players and journalists (more innocent times).

On the way back, the Scots were delightful hosts to the jubilant RTE crew, and appeared happy that they'd helped send them to the Euros (obviously one must allow that they had already been eliminated). Ian St. John went to down and had the craic with George and the boys on the return flight.

When Mackay scored late in the game, the RTE director showed pictures of Gilesy and Setters and Mick McCarthy celebrating back in Donnybrook.



8. Niall Quinn v Holland, Palermo 1990

This vital goal, which prolonged Ireland's journey at Italia 90, has been described by many observers as one of the ugliest goals ever scored.


It wasn't in the last minute but the clock was running down when Quinny pounced on the rebound. It was duly followed by a twenty minute armistice in which teams knew they had qualified and agreed not to do something silly like trying to score.

The Dutch may have had cause to regret this when they drew out Germany in the lots.



7. Jason McAteer v Holland, Lansdowne Road 2001

As Simon Kuper has outlined to us, few expected Ireland would be capable of beating Holland, not least the Dutch themselves who were very blase about the supposed challenges.


The Dutch are not one to pay attention to the quality of the Irish team, so it's not that they thought that this was a particularly poor or strong Irish team, there was just very little attention paid. The feeling was that if we play properly there won't be a problem. There was no Irish players who were much discussed.

It was a time when Dutch football really thought it was the greatest on the planet, the most intelligent, the most attacking, the most morally correct - because we played attacking football and other people didn't. When they played teams from the British Isles, including Ireland, there was a feeling that we're sophisticated and they're primitive, so it was a time of great Dutch hubris and that was personified by Van Gaal who was the kind of schoolmaster of attacking, passing football, so the idea that we could be beaten by Ireland was a bit of a comeuppance.

Dutch hubris by Jason McAteer's goal near the hour mark. The roar that greeted the goal caused the old ground to wobble.



6. Shane Long v Germany,  Lansdowne Road 2015


One of the most genuinely shocking (in a good way) results in Irish football history. A cobbled together Irish team defeated the world champions in a match which guaranteed Ireland a playoff spot at worst. 

Ireland's first competitive win over a major footballing nation since beating the Dutch in 2001 (obviously excluding beating the French over 90 minutes in 2009).


5. Alan McLoughlin v Northern Ireland, Windsor Park 1993

Not a particularly great performance from Ireland and a very uncomfortable night. But it produced one of the important goals ever scored by an Irish player. Alan McLoughlin's pile driver from the edge of the box carried Ireland to the USA on a night when an arrogant France and a resurgent Wales stumbled out of the tournament, and England's exit was officially confirmed.


4. Robbie Keane v Germany, Ibaraki 2002

On the 12th anniversary, we canvassed around for stories from those who watched the game which was screened at around midday Irish time.

Davy Fitz (not that one we presume) was a deserved winner.

Little known fact. That game took place the day Enda Kenny was elected leader of Fine Gael.

3. Robbie Brady v Italy, Lille 2016

The sheer emotion on Brady's face as he bounded towards his family in the Stand was unforgettable. Usually, it takes longer for something like that to sink in.

It was the first time that Ireland had won a game in a major tournament with a late goal, a detail which always magnifies the celebration. It gives the goal a Golden Goal-esque feel.

Has to rise high.

2. Ray Houghton v Italy, Giants Stadium 1994

The only goal in what is commonly agreed to be Ireland's greatest victory in international football, pipping the win over Germany last year on the basis that it occurred in the World Cup proper.

Still haven't seen a goal like it since.


1. Ray Houghton v England,  Stuttgart 1988

The most memorable goal in Irish history. The combination of factors - Ireland's first ever tournament match, the only goal, and it was against England!- make it impossible to shift it from top spot.

Ireland would need to reach at least a semi-final if this is ever to dislodged from top spot.


Read more: The Stats Which Aim To Put Robbie Brady's Goal In Historical Context

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