And the Oscar for Greatest Irish sporting moment goes to…

This thought came to me when posting on Mick’s thread about who was the greatest, Keane or Best. Since that one’s a ‘no-brainer’ (apologies to relevant blow-in British Minister) I came up with this idea. Whether it’s soccer, gaelic, rugby, athletics or something else, let’s hear nominations for the greatest Irish sporting moment.I have my own thoughts, which are clearly biased by personal memories and interests.

Personal achievements
Stephen Roche’s Tour de France victory in 1987; Barry McGuigan’s defeat of Eusebio Pedroza; Sean Treacy’s Marathon silver in the Los Angeles Olympics of 1984;

Team Triumphs
The Republic of Ireland’s 1994 victory over Italy in New Jersey, closely matched by the Romanian penalty shoot-out drama of Italia ’90 and the victory in Spain 1982 by the North against the host Nation.

In rugby, the Ulster and Munster European successes, as well as the Munster victory over the All Blacks.

In GAA, the victory of Down in 1991 which brought to an end Ulster’s long drought- as well as the famous Clare Hurling triumphs of the 1990s.

But my personal favourite has to be the precise moment Ray Houghton’s head knocked the ball into the English net in the beautiful German town of Stuttgart, a moment that announced the arrival of the Irish team onto soccer’s grandest stage to the rest of the world.

Ahh memories….

  • When Tipperary won the 2006 Hurling championship.

    What!! Too soon?

  • Pete Baker

    Michelle Smith’s triple gold medal winning performance at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics…

    It was the first thought that came to me..

  • tra g

    Ray Houghton’s goal in the 1.0 win over England in Stuttgart, Euro 88.

    Flights & hotel booked and tickets in my pocket for the return pilgrimage to Stuttgart in September.

  • tra g


    Barry McGuigan beating Eusebio Pedrosa at Queens Park Rangers’ground in London on a June night in 1985 to claim the WBA world featherweight title.

  • The Beach Tree

    I actually did this a few years ago with a few friends, trying to find 100 Great Irish Sporting moments.

    Your photo was highly appropriate because we settled on Stephen Roche – not however winning Le Tour in 1987, but one particular stage of that race – the Ascent of La Plagne, where he single handedly chased down Pedro Delgado; the look of anguish on Delgado’s face as he see’s Roche approach the finish was extraordinary.

    Roche was so exhausted he collapsed and needed oxygen. But an irishman to the last, his first comment on gaining conciousness and being asked if he was ok was “Oui, mais pas de femme toute suite”; roughly translated, “Yes, but I’m not ready for the women just yet!”

    Other personal favourites (with the obvious modern bias)include

    Valencia : NI 1 (Armstrong) – Spain 0, 1982.

    Houghton (ROI) scores against England, 1988.

    O’Leary (ROI) scores the final penalty v Romania, 1990.

    Houghton (ROI) scores against Italy, 1994.

    Robbie Keane’s (ROI) last minute equalizer v Germany, 2000.

    David Healy (NI) scores v England – 2005

    Down ‘beat the team that couldn’t be beaten’, Meath and finally bring Sam Maguire back across the Border, 1991.

    Kernan finds Armagh’s redemption, 2002.

    McGuigan beats Pedroza, 1985.

    Carruth Gold, McCullough Silver, Barcelona 1988.

    Ireland bowl out the West Indies for 25, 1969.

    Ireland concede 292 to West Indies, and still win, 2004.

    Michelle Smyth in Atlanta. 1996. Of course it was fishy as hell (and not in a good way) but until we knew better, by God we cheered.

    Ireland’s grand slam; One night in Ravenhill, 1949.

    Ulster’s fairytale v Colomiers, 1999.

    Munster’s redemption v Biarritz, 2006.

    The Comeback: Dennis Taylor win’s on the black v Steve Davis, 1985.

    The Hurricane: Higgen’s beats Reardon, and cries like a baby, with his baby, 1982.

    Christy o’Connor Jr’s putt wins the Ryder Cup (with help!), 1989.

  • Rory

    Rinty Monaghan taking the World Flyweight Championship from the great Scottish boxer, Jackie Patterson in 1948. I must however declare an interst in my vote, as the politicians are required – weeks after the fight while still being feted, Rinty visited my father’s club where a snooker tournament was taking place and I, then not yet four, was introduced to the champion of the world who sat me on his knee, sang “Danny Boy” to me and gave me two half crowns.

    I have met a few sports legends in the intervening years, including George Best, who was very kind indeed to me in a most unassuming way, but who the hell could ever compete with Rinty after that? Not even lovely George. May they sing and dance tonight together in heaven.

  • Sir David.

  • bertie

    Spain ’82 Match against Spain, as well as what went on on the pitch, it was the fact that you could hear the NI fans even though they were well outnumbered by Spaniards. I have to say that I was also moved to see many of the Spanish fans turn and applaud the NI fans. It was just great. A wonderful memory!

  • Hy: soccer doesn’t count. Or rugby. Get a grip. Good post Rory. Anway:

    1. Ronnie Delaney winning the Gold in Melbourne.
    2. Ken Doherty’s snooker exploits.
    3. Barry McGuigan: I saw him drive ot Dublin’s Mansion House and there were old guys, white hair, in the 80s wacing their sticks intriumph at him and his JCB type hands. A week later, he was old news.
    4. Wayne McCullough and Carruth I would exlude as McCullough takes far too many punches and Carruth is not that good.
    5. Michelle: well….
    6. The 1970s’ Dublin Kerry thrillers deserve a mention.
    7. Christy Ring, Mick Mackey, Eddie Kehir all deerve mentions in dispatches.
    8. If soccer has to be mentioned, Maradonna’s hand of God goal, coz anythign that pisses off the English so much is a great moment in Irish sport.
    9. If rugby has to be included, on the maxim that “the Irish are the race that God made mad”, Ireland losing to Australia in Landsdown by one point in a double snatch end deserves mention. That was a heart killing end.
    10. And if soccer must be rammed down our throats, the penalty shoot out with Romania is definitely it.
    11. Best does not figure as he palyed for a crap team (so called Northern Ireland).
    12. Keane does not figure for much the same reason.

  • George Best

    Smyth the swimming cheat-drugs

    Roache the cycling cheat-drugs

    Kelly the cycling cheat-drugs

    Carruth nigerian official bribed with a gold rolex

    Irish soccer team cheats-played illegal players

    When you consider what’s left is coke-heads and drunks or stale boring bastards you relise that Ireland produces fuck all worth cheering.

  • SpiceGirls

    Northern Irland 1 England 0

    Belfast 2005

  • Mick Fealty

    I’d have to say the Heaney goal given the context of NI’s lowly position in World rankings. It may have heralded a long awaited turnaround.

    Though my concern is that neither of the two Ireland’s have the manpower and strength in depth to compete on an ever enlarging world stage.

  • DaithiO

    When Laois won Sam McGuire in 2006.

    Whoops, that’s let the cat out of the bag !

  • jamboni

    Mary Peters’ pentathlon gold ?

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    Gerry (Ginger) Mc Loughlin’s try against England at Twickenham in 1982 when Ireland won the triple crown was a great sporting moment.
    I remember the England captain at the time, Bill Beaumont, recalling the moment and his humility and all round sportsmanship was just as good.

  • Tochais Siorai

    No doubt, Mick you’ll be disappointed young Heaney won’t be able to play for Norn Iron any more.

    ‘My passport’s Green
    No glass of ours
    Was ever raised to toast the Queen’

  • Nevin

    Heaney? Healy surely? Maybe David’s a poet!!

  • George

    Have to agree with Beach Tree,

    I think the stage you are refering to was the climb up Mont Ventoux though. They took the mountain time trial off the Tour for nearly 20 years after that hell.

    Easily the most incredible moment of a sporting feat I have seen which no Irishman or British for matter, is likely to every achieve again – Giro, Tour and world championship in one year.

  • Indeed Nevin… That Armstrong goal, and everything that went before it… It looked at the time like he just had energy enough to fall on the ball and make enough contact to get it into the net… great days!!! The Italian game in New York ’94 put me in mind of it.

  • Ringo

    George – I think Beach Tree is right – La Plagne, the one where he came out of the mist having made up a ridiculous amount of time. It wasn’t the time trial stage, it was a regular mountain stage.

    Proudest moment – Match against England in ’88. Just seeing a Republic side lining up for the anthems in a the sunshine of a major tournament was enough – beating England was a bonus.

    Runner up – ‘its Timofte against Bonner’.

    Can’t believe no one has mentioned Munster beating the All-Blacks… Are all the Munster fans still AWOL since Cardiff?

  • The Beech Tree


    You’re quite right (if memory serves fignon actually won the stage) – It was actually low cloud (!) rather than mist, but I still remember that the word on the course was that cameras, the pelaton and the break group had lost touch with Roche and it was therefore assumed by everyone on the road he had hit the wall big style- I think he was nearly 5 minutes behind Delgado at one point.

    Delgado approaches the line, his manager having apparently already shouted at him from the team car in Basque “You broke him! You broke the bastard!”, only for the crestfallen Delgado to then hear the roar behind him as Roche appeared only 14 seconds or something adrift. He’d cycled the last 5 K pretty much vertical in a sprint gear, and nearly killed himself, but he’d caught him.

    To Roche, the mountain time trial mentioned by George (and it was hellish!) was the formality that allowed Roche to overtake Delgado once and for all that year.

    For me, it’s one of the great character moments of Sport, when Roche, to misquote Keyser Soze, showed these “men of will” what “will” really was.

    For sheer hairbrained guts, the only cyclists I ever saw who was more ‘willful’ and brave were Chiappucci, who seemed to consider lone ‘suicide’ mountain breaks to be his constitutional duty, and Armstrong, who love him or not, was one hard bastard.

  • Arkle

    What about me?

  • con

    “Ray Houghton’s goal in the 1.0 win over England in Stuttgart, Euro 88.”

    Coleraine boys on tour

  • What about Master McGrath? Or Shergar?

  • George

    I bow your memory Beach Tree.

    I was actually in the Neckarstadion when Ray put the ball in the English net.

    What a day, never seen so many grown men crying. And it is was all before the arrival of the Italia 90 posse and paying for tickets with credit cards only.

    Maybe it’s just me but I think this was a naive joy never to be repeated, everyone there out of love, not the spectacle.

  • Arkle

    Sure the only thing Shergar could clear was out.

  • The Beech Tree


    Puts me in mind of this Christy song, sung to the tune from Match of the Day!

    “It was in the year of eighty-eight in the lovely month of June

    When the gadflies were swarmin’, dogs howlin’ at the moon

    With rosary beads and sandwiches for Stuttgart we began

    Joxer packed his German phrase-book and jump leads for the van

    Well, some of the lads had never been away from home before

    ‘Twas the first time Whacker set his foot outside of Inchicore

    Before we left for Europe we knew we’d need a plan

    So we all agreed that Joxer was the man to drive the van

    In Germany the Autobahn ’twas like the long mile road

    There was every kind or car and van all carryin’ the full load

    Ford Transits and Hiace’s and a ould Bedford from Tralee

    With engine over heatin’ from long haulin’ duty-free

    There were fans from Ballyfermont, Ballybough and Ballymun

    On the journey of the lifetime and the crack was ninety-one

    Joxer met a German’s daughter on the banks of the river Rhine

    And he told her she’d be welcome in Ballyfermont anytime

    As soon as we got to Stuttgart we put the wagons in a ring

    Sean og got out the banjo, Peter played the mandolin

    There was fans there from everywhere attracted by the sound

    At the first Fleagh Ceoil in Europe, Joxer passed the flagon round

    But the session it ended when we finished all the stout

    The air mattresses inflated and the sleepin’ bags rolled

    As one by one we fell asleep poor Joxer had a dream

    He dreamt himself and Jack Charlton sat down to pick the team

    Joxer dreamt they agreed on Packy Bonner straight away

    And Morn, Whelan and McGrath were certainly to play

    But tempers they began to rise, patience wearing thin

    Jack wanted Cascarino, but Joxer wanted Quinn

    Then the dream turned into a nightmare, Joxer stuck the head in Jack

    Who wanted to bring Johnny Giles and Eamon Dunphy back

    When the cock crew in the morning, it crew both loud and shrill

    Joxer woke up in his sleepin’ bag many miles from Arbour Hill

    The next morning none of the experts gave us the slightest chance

    They said the English team would lead us on a merry dance

    With Union Jacks all them English fans for victory were set

    Until Ray Houghton got the ball and stuck it in the net

    What happened next was history, brought tears to many eyes

    That day will be the highlight in many people’s lives

    Well Joxer climbed right over the top and the next time he was seen

    Was arm and arm with Jack Charlton, singin’ revenge for Skibbereen

    Now Whacker’s back in Inchicore, he’s livin’ with his Mam

    And Jack Charlton has been proclaimed an honorary Irish man

    Do you remember the German’s daughter on the banks of the river Rhine

    Well didn’t he show up in Ballyfermont last week and . . .”

  • Beach Tree:
    easier than spewing out all the words again. If you soccer lot had not such a terrible inferiority complex, you would stop going on about that silly match. Where has all the soccer money gone? The FAI is an Arthur Daly swindle. The best was when Jack Charlton fucked all the officials out of the good hotel rooms so the palyers could sleep before the Italian defeat in Italy. Without an Englishman and Englishmen, the RoI team would be as shit as it was with The Brady Bunch.

    Arkle: You deserve a mention in any roll of honour. And you were never as blinkered as these followers of the garrison game. Speaking if which: Ecuador are looking good

  • The Beach Tree


    I’m not one of the “soccer lot”, being a broad supporter (and in my youth, player) of many sports, but rest assured there is no inferiority complex here.

    As for FAI money, perhaps they are corrupt, perhaps not. I’m not really bothered. I don’t support ROI (or NI, or any sport, for that matter) for the money.

    As a horseracing man, a ‘sport’ that is meaningless without the associated gambling revenues, we can assume money is your main motivation in choosing sporting passtimes.

    So be it.

  • DK

    1995 World Cup Qualifiers:

    Republic of Ireland 1-1 Northern Ireland

    Says it all….

  • DK

    DOH – European Cup qualifier I meant

  • The Beach:
    All sports are about money. Soccer is just more corrupt than most. In addition to horse racing and greyhound racing (says it all), I also mentioned, in post 9,
    rugby, soccer, atheltics, snooker, boxing, swimming, Gaelic football, hurling. I might also mention that sport is a sub section of the leisure and entertainment industry and clued in commentarors like Tom McGurk are sick of the farce that is professional Association Football.

    As regards the pecuniary motive: most of Ireland’s soccer supporters would be better of playing thr game instead of watching and drinking. They might get their weight down that way.

  • The Beach Tree


    That was a fairly poor response even for you to be honest.

    Some Sports (certainly not all) may be about money for the owners. Not for the vast majority of the fans, who vastly outnumber the owners.

    And to be honest I take McGurk’s opinions about as seriously as I take yours.

    Some sports are profitable, some are not. I don’t really care. I simply enjoy them as sport. So do most fans.

    And then there are those who think the world owes them a living, and only activities that make them money are justified. I have pretty low opinion of such people, I can tell you.

    For example, I watch a fair amount of irish cricket. There’s not a dog’s bollix of a chance of making money out of it. I don’t care. I see Stumps not $igns.

    I also watch soccer live, from Public Park kickabouts to English Premiership. Because I like soccer, it’s a fun, simple game capable of considerable beauty. Money simply doesn’t come into it.

    The part of Sport that forms part of the “leisure and entertainment industry” is miniscule compared with the portion that is not played in front of spectators. Sport existed long before fans did, especially tight-fisted moneymad fans. And it’ll exist long after fans are gone.

  • turf accountant

    Seriously, Himself should be in any list of great Irish sporting achievers. It would be absurd to leave a three-times Cheltenham Gold Cup winner out of such a list.

  • Patrique

    There have been many great sporting feats, but given that Roche won Tour de France, Italy and the World Championship in one year, only achieved by Eddie Mercx, this has to be joint number one because it was cycling. Not a traditional stronghold of Irish sport, although Kelly was World number 1 for years.

    Also Michelle De Bruin. Considering that all the Yanks and the others were also on super drugs, it is amzing that an Irish woman won 3 SWIMMING gold medals. Yes, SWIMMING. In fact, now that I think of it, Michelle must be tops, given the sexist attitude Ireland has to sportswomen.

  • Turf Accountant: Too true about “our” great horses. And don’t forget “Three cheers for Ireland and Master McGrath”.

    The Beach Tree: As regards sports and money: you are wrong, not that your opinion counts for much. Arsene Wenger probably put it best when he said he would still be in the game if there was no money in it. But money rules. Ask Chelsea.
    The English Premier Division is crippled because most revenues go to the hired guns who kick ball. That is why Arsenal had to abandon Highbury, why Glazer bought Utd from the Irish horsey pair, why Utd must leverage all the sponsorshhip deals they can.
    Addidas, who are one of the world’s major sports and leisurewear industries wil be surprised to hear your naiive statements that the sports business is not a business. So will the Man Utd fans who could not stop the Glazer takeover. But hey, go kick your ball around the field and dream of the Scottish multimillionaire who scored a goal against England. (To be fair, Houghton is a good pundit. I wonder does he get paid for that).