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'Post-Tournament Hangover' - Ireland's Very Chequered History In Post-Tournament Qualifying Campaigns

'Post-Tournament Hangover' - Ireland's Very Chequered History In Post-Tournament Qualifying Campaigns
By Conor Neville
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History suggests that Ireland are vulnerable to a post-tournament hangover. Examination of the previous campaigns that followed Irish appearances in tournaments suggests we haven't readjusted well to the comparatively dreary business of qualifying ties in grim places like Serbia and Russia.

Only Italia 90 stands out as a triumphant follow-up and even that was achieved after a faltering start. Ireland showed up well in Euro 92 and only bad luck and a few defensive lapses cost them in the end. Since that, post tournament campaigns have been marked by flatness. For some reason, Austria are often there too.

Italia 90

It never got better than the first time. The greatest Ireland team to reach a major championship at Euro 88 got off to a ropey enough start in the Italia 90 qualifiers.

Landed in a far from intimidating group with Spain, Hungary, Northern Ireland and Malta, we mustered only two points from three games. Zero goals too. We drew 0-0 in Windsor Park, lost 2-0 in Seville, and drew 0-0 in Hungary.

Yes, for some reason, UEFA had frontloaded our campaign with away fixtures. Once we got back to the Lansdowne Road cabbage pitch, no one could live with us.

First, Spain were beaten 1-0 in April. It originally looked like Stapleton had scored but on closer inspection it was an especially ugly own goal.

The following month, the Maltese were beaten 2-0 and the following the Hungarians were beaten on the same scoreline. Four months later, the clearly in decline Nordies were smashed 3-0 in Dublin. They suffered the same fate four years later.


Qualification was now more or less a certainty and our programme was completed with a 2-0 win in Malta. Clean sheets from seven of eight qualification matches.


Euro 92


There was little wrong with Ireland's Euro 92 campaign. Dropped into one of the four team groups, we had England (again), Poland and Turkey, then still minnows of world football.

To no-one's surprise we drew 1-1 twice with England. At home, we were perhaps a touch lucky to get a point though it would be a stretch to say England really deserved the win. Over in Wembley, we handed out a 1-1 battering and wouldn't have been flattered to win 3-1. Nonetheless, we were so conditioned to welcome 1-1 draws with England, the fans celebrated lustily anyhow. Ray Houghton missed a sitter late on to win it.


We made far lighter work of the Turks than Graham Taylor's men, smashing them 5-0 at home and winning 3-1 out there in the final group game.

No, this campaign floundered on Poland. While England beat the Poles 2-0 in the group opener, we huffed and puffed our way to a 0-0 draw in Lansdowne Road after pummeling them for 90 mins.

In Poznan, we led 3-1 but uncharacteristically gave up two late goals. Careless at the time, this was fatal to our chances. Even then, we were going through with ten minutes left in the campaign. While we were easing to a 3-1 win in Istanbul, the English trailed in Poland. However, Gary Lineker struck late and that was that.


Denmark didn't qualify either but the horror of the Balkan conflict and the resultant expulsion of their group winners Yugoslavia gave them a chance and they rode their luck all the way to the championship.


Euro 96

A disaster. Ireland were first seeds but were handed a stinker of a second seed in Portugal who, though absent from major tournaments since Mexico 86, had a crop of devastating young stars coming on stream.


We, by contrast, were rolling out the same old fellas who'd already shown their age against Mexico and Holland in USA 94.

Despite the reasonably forgiving qualifying criteria that applied then (although not as forgiven as Euro 2016) Ireland's form deteriorated so rapidly down the back end of 1995 that they missed out on the tournament in England.

Still, the campaign started swimmingly and Ireland looked in rude health. A slack 1-1 draw at home to Northern Ireland was the only downer as Ireland won four from the opening five. The fifth of the games was a 1-0 win over Portugal thanks to a Victor Baia goal. Though no one suspected at the time, it was the last great rousing Lansdowne performance for Jack's team.


In June, it was thought that six points from the two early summer games would more or less ensure qualification. Paul McGrath said as much in his campaign diary.

Alas, Ireland suffered their most humiliating day (up to that) in Vaduz. The 4,500 strong crowd watched in horror as Ireland failed to score against Liechtenstein.

Jack put on a herculean display of bullishness afterwards. In post match interviews, he concentrated on getting across his incredulity that Ireland hadn't scored from one of their 40 shots on goal. All in all, he preferred to see the result as a random act of God rather than evidence of a deepening malaise.

However, as Tony Cascarino later noted to Balls.ie, it was perhaps the first sign that the team were in serious decline. The rapidity of the decline was shocking.

Jack flaunted his nutritional expertise before the team on the eve of the match against Austria. The most famous fish and chips scoffing exercise in the history of Irish football has been a staple of the Irish football autobiography genre ever since.

Ireland went 1-0 up after time but conceded three in a surreal flurry, the likes of which Lansdowne Road hadn't seen since Spain came to town two years earlier.

They proceeded to lose 3-1 in the return game in Vienna. We were in a full blown crisis. We scraped by Latvia 2-1 but on a desperately wet night in Lisbon, we were confronted with the inescapable proof of our decline. Spanked 3-0 by Portugal.


It was a mortifying night but Ireland had managed to cling on to second place in the group, at least. Northern Ireland had beaten Austria 5-3 in Belfast.

Had they scored one more goal, they would have stolen second place on goals scored.


Thanks to killianm2

There was more comedy ahead of the playoff.

On the eve of the game, the team and management all gather in their private room in a Liverpool hotel to watch this frightening Dutch outfit. They park themselves in their chairs and Jack plonks the old VHS tape in the slot.

Alan McLoughlin told the story best in his autobiography 'Different Shade of Green'.

To my surprise, as the camera scanned across the two teams standing for the anthems it showed eleven anonymous faces in orange shirts surrounded by an empty stadium. I squinted at the Dutch team on screen, unable to make out Kluivert, Bergkamp or any of their other stars. After five minutes it became abundantly clear to everyone that this was a video of the Dutch under-21 team. Everyone, that is, apart from Jack and Maurice. The lads started nudging each other, laughter rippling, as we waited for Jack to realise. Another five minutes passed.

Still Jack hadn’t clocked what was going on. Another few minutes passed. Up Jack leapt, pausing the video. He’s finally realised, I thought. But as Jack started lecturing us, I realised I was wrong.

'Now, watch Bergkamp'

Jack was pointing at the Dutch under-21 striker, who just happened, like Denis Bergkamp, to have blonde hair.

'Now watch the way he pulls away from his defender here'

Cue hoots of laughter.

'What the hell do you think you're laughing at? What's so fucking funny?'

Jack's question was met with more howls of delight. Eventually, Andy Townsend told him what had happened. Jack blamed Maurice and gave him a bollocking. Maurice, in turn, blamed the Dutch. Sabotage! Jack's final word on the matter was 'fuck 'em, we'll beat 'em anyway'. It didn't bode well.

In advance of the Holland game, Cascarino remembers Jack yielding to the players' tactical wishes for possibly the first time in a decade.

Charlton was afraid of the Dutch and wanted Ireland to play one striker. The players weren't comfortable with that.

I remember a training session and Jack wanted to play a particular system which meant one up-front. And the lads weren't quite happy with that. And Jack, I think for the first time in his career, went with what the players wanted to do.

He wanted to play one up front against the Dutch. He kept saying, 'they're too bloody good, they've got too many good players, we're going to get murdered in this area!'

And to his credit, Jack was right.


Euro 2004

For whatever reason, the memory of Damien Duff Dizziness and the rousing performance against Spain had faded into the background by the time the Euro 2004 qualifiers rolled around.

But the stench of the Saipan saga still wafted through the air. That Keane's autobiography had just come out didn't help in that regard.

McCarthy's fate was sealed after two jarring losses, a 4-2 away defeat in Russia (been a while since Ireland had conceded 4) and, even more unacceptably, a 2-1 loss to Swtizerland. Everything was going wrong.

With old questions popping up again and stroppiness in the air, Mick walked fairly swiftly. Kerr came in and Ireland enjoyed an early bounce. However, we failed to close the deal against Russia at home after Duffer handed us the early lead.

It was a long shot after that. Kerr's was given a mountain to climb but something in the manner of Ireland's final 2-0 loss in Switzerland left one doubting whether he'd have guided them to the championships had he taken over from the first game.

Possibly, the purest example of a post-tournament hangover afflicting us for the next competition.


Thanks to killianm2

World Cup 2014

Possibly, Ireland's most abject qualifying performance since the fag end of the Eoin Hand era.

Ireland had the chance to thank Mr. Trapattoni for his work and start afresh with someone else after the harrowing summer in Poland.

In the time-honoured tradition of Irish sporting officialdom, the FAI rewarded Trapattoni with a two year contract before it all went tits up in Poland.

Thus, they decided it wasn't economical to pay him off and they decided to stick with and we essentially wasted two years.

Rarely has there been more apathy than surrounded the Ireland team before their trip to Kazakhstan for the opener. Kevin Doyle spared all brushes with two late goals to win 2-1 but the atmosphere was sour. It was plain the team were going nowhere. This was confirmed with a 6-1 hammering at home to Germany in Dublin.

There was the briefest spasm of optimism after a 0-0 draw and a decent performance away in Sweden in March 2013. This was extinguished after we were hit with a late sucker punch at home to Austria. The campaign was a slow death after that.

Sweden came from 1-0 down to beat Ireland in Lansdowne Road ending any realistic chance of qualification. Trap finally walked a few days later after a patently clapped out Ireland lost 1-0 away in Austria.


Read more: How Ireland Risked Expulsion From The European Championships Over Yugoslavian Quarrel

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