Wednesday 22 June 2016

Martin O'Neill Tells Ireland Players To Make History

Since that that famous day against Italy at the Giants Stadium in New Jersey in 1994, Republic of Ireland have won just once at a major tournament, and that was a 3-0 stroll against Saudi Arabia some 14 years ago.

On Wednesday, here in Lille, a legend to rival Ray Houghton must emerge if Ireland are to make it to the knockout rounds of a European Championships for the first time in their history. Houghton was the scorer of the only goal against the Italians, his gravity-defying lob sailing in slow motion above and beyond Gianluca Pagliuca in the Azzurri goal.

Indeed, current Ireland assistant Roy Keane admits he has never quite figured that goal out, while Houghton reflected: “It was purely 'I'm just going to hit it', and then as you hit you think it's going over the bar, then you think he's going to save it, and then finally you think it's going in.  Then it's pandemonium.

Ireland might well need something just as freakish if they are to get the win which extends their stay in France, for logic tells you such a result is probably beyond them. This, though, says manager Martin O'Neill, is when memories are made. O’Neil said “I want the players to see this as an opportunity to make some history. Exactly that, I think that will be the view of the players. There is excitement. We always felt we'd have to win a game in the group stage, we'd have to win a match and so we have to win this one. That's it.”

Ireland's preparations were rather subdued compared to those of 22 years ago in the United States, when television sets were switched from World Cup football to the captivating footage of NFL star OJ Simpson evading LAPD officers as he was driven by a friend in his Ford Bronco up and down a Los Angeles freeway.

For Ireland's players, however, it will only be the biggest game of their career if they win. If not, the wait for new heroes goes on.


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