By Seán Creedon
European Championship Finals, Neckar Stadium, Stuttgart,
June 12, 1988
Republic of Ireland 1
The Republic of Ireland needed a helping hand from Scotland’s Gary Mackay to qualify for our first-ever major finals, the 1988 European Championships in Germany.
On October 14, 1987 goals from Paul McGrath and Kevin Moran saw the Republic beat Bulgaria 2-0 at Lansdowne Road to top our group which also included Belgium, Scotland and Luxembourg with 11 points.
With second-placed Bulgaria on 10 points due to play Scotland in Sofia the following month, it was generally felt that Bulgaria would get all three points and replace Ireland as group winners.
But on a wet night in the Vassil Levski Stadium in Sofia on November 11 1987, Gary Makay scored the winner for Scotland in the 87th minute to send The Boys in Green to Euro ’88.
Makay had replaced the injured Paul McStay at half-time to win his first cap and the goal turned out to be his only goal for his country.
The Irish team travelled to Oslo on June 1st for a friendly against Norway as a final warm-up for Euro ’88.
Jack Charlton used the exact same XI that he would use against England in Stuttgart in the 0-0 draw against the Norwegians.
The Irish were certainly in confident mood and as the team left their bus outside the Neckar Stadium Irish physio Mick Byrne shouted to the Irish supporters, ‘‘We will do them for youse today.’’
The Boys in Green made a good start and after two minutes Paul McGrath scuffed his effort which was easily saved by Peter Shilton, who was winning his 99th cap.
Three minutes later Ireland got another chance and scored.
Gary Lineker fouled Chris Hughton a few yards inside the Irish half. Kevin Moran took the free kick and he drove it towards the corner flag where Gary Stevens, Mark Wright and Frank Stapleton all challenged for ball.
The ball fell kindly for Tony Galvin. His cross was mis-kicked up in the air by Kenny Sansom; John Aldridge then headed the ball on to Ray Houghton, who sent a looping header into the corner of the English net.
Jack Charlton could be seen rubbing his head, having hit if off the dug out when celebrating with his backroom staff.
The remaining 85 minutes were agonising for Irish supporters at the game and for those at home watching the game on television and listening on radio. George Hamilton was the television commentator, while Gabriel Egan provided the commentary on radio.
After 20 minutes a thrown-in by Hughton was headed clear by Stevens only for Chris Morris to latch onto the ball and his first time effort through a ruck of players ended with Peter Shilton turning the ball round the post for corner kick.
Seven minutes later Ireland were lucky not to concede a penalty when it looked like Kevin Moran had taken down John Barnes, but the East German referee waved play on.
Waddle shot into the side netting and Linker had another shot saved by Bonner, but it was the Irish who finished the first half on top with Houghton getting through the English offside trap, only for Shilton to save at his feet.
England were well on top in the second half but they couldn’t find a way past Irish keeper Packie Bonner. After three minutes Sansom put Lineker clear, but his shot was saved by Bonner with Beardsley putting the rebound over the bar.
The Donegal man denied Barnes, Beardsley and Robson and Gary Lineker on several occasions.
After a quick free Lineker was nearly through, but Bonner saved at his feet and when the ball bounced clear from the collision between the goalkeeper and the striker there was Kevin Moran to put it behind for a corner.
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