In the latest look back on historic moments in Irish football, Noel Spillane reveals what the press corps got up to during the Republic of Ireland’s first appearance at a FIFA World Cup in Italy 1990.
Flashback by Noel Spillane (Evening Echo)
Italy and Sicily for the Republic of Ireland’s World Cup campaign under Jack Charlton in 1990 was certainly one of the real highlights of my journalistic career.
The team played at the La Favourita stadium in Palermo, in Genoa, and in Cagilari before finally bowing out to the host nation in the quarter-finals in Rome’s Olympic Stadium on June 30. Earlier, we had met the Pope in the Vatican, but not even divine intervention could help us that night in the Eternal City as Salvatore ‘Toto’ Schillaci ended our World Cup adventure and a place in the semi-finals.
We had a media team on the go in our own little World Cup and we played the same countries as were in Ireland’s group in the tournament proper and, believe it or not, we went one better than Big Jack and the Boys In Green, and got to the final against Denmark. Sadly, the media final was never actually played as we were on a flight home after Ireland’s exit in Rome.
We had suggested to the organisers that the Danes come to Dublin to play us or we could go to Copenhagen to play the final there but the upshot of it all was that the Danes without having to play were awarded the title by default. Not the happiest of memories in the media team I can assure you, but that’s football, as they say.
The World Cup finals in Italy were also significant for me and our cameraman Eddie O’Hare. You see, Schillaci, a type-fitter from Palermo in a previous life, ended up as the tournament’s top scorer and the other star man was Romania’s No 10 Gheorghe Hagi, and hence we got the nicknames O’Hagi and Spillachi!
We were based in the seaside resort of Mondello just outside Palermo, but one day we got the brainwave to get a few Schillaci t-shirts made up with his face printed on them. He was all the rage at the time and I felt the t-shirts would go down a bomb at home with family and friends.
We decided to order up to 20 of them but somewhere along the way the order number got lost in translation and, unwittingly, we had placed an order for far more. Don’t ask where they ended up but presumably they were sold at a big profit as ‘Toto’ ended up as a national hero in his homeland that year.
At least we managed to avoid the Mafia hit man who was supposed to be chasing us for the money for the t-shirts and believe me the Mafia are big in and Palermo.
By the way, that media XI consisted of John Charlton (one of Jack’s sons), Des Cahill, John Givens, Mark Woods, Jim Beglin, Liam Brady, Tony Leen, Philip Quinn, Vincent Hogan, Tony Stenson, Adrian Williams, the late Bob Hennessy, and O’Hagi. Oh, and yours truly as well.
Check out previous Flashbacks from SWAI members…
Marcus Cavaroli on when Drogheda United won the Premier Division
Noel Spillane on Ireland’s historic breakthrough at Euro ’88
Gareth Maher on Ireland Under 19’s reaching the European semi-finals
Noel Spillane on Brian Kerr’s youngsters at the FIFA World Youth Cup
Arthur Duffy on Derry City’s memorable UEFA Cup run
Philip Quinn on the night Ireland qualified for Italia ’90
*Image courtesy of Sportsfile