FAI History Chapter 10 – Ireland come up short again

FAI History Chapter 10 – Ireland come up short again

Ireland's difficulty in securing results away from home was not calculated to inspire confidence when they travelled to play Scotland in the first of the 1962 World Cup qualifying ties at Hampden Park on May 3, 1961. An added worry was the fact that the return game in Dublin was set for just four days later.Scotland were represented by a distinguished group of players - Eric Caldow, Billy McNeill, Jimmy Baxter, David Herd, Ralph Brand among them.Ireland introduced Andy McEvoy, a player who would go on to prove he was blessed with an extraordinary goal-scoring talent with his club, Blackburn Rovers.McEvoy came from Bray and finished his career in the League of Ireland with Limerick. With Blackburn he formed a lethal partnership with the England winger, Bryan Douglas, and in the 1964/'65 season he was second highest goalscorer in the English League to Jimmy Greaves. The following season he was joint top with Greaves on 29 goals. Denis Law and Roger Hunt were next in line.Scotland proved too strong for Ireland and went in front after 14 minutes through Rangers' Ralph Brand. He added a second before half-time and early in the second half Ireland threatened a recovery when Joe Haverty scored.It was Scotland who went on to dominate the rest of the game, however, with David Herd scoring twice to inflict a heavy defeat and gain an important psychological edge in advance of the second game four days later.Herd missed the second game but it mattered little. Alex Young replaced him and Paddy Crerand came in for his first cap. Ireland made four changes with Mick Meagan coming in for his first international.Meagan, of Everton, was a constructive wing-half who came back to Ireland to finish his career as player/manager with Drogheda United. Before then he played 17 internationals for Ireland and also served as the first manager of the team when Ireland finally abandoned the policy of using a selection committee.Scotland again dominated Ireland and the attendance of 36,000 had little to enthuse over as Scotland won 3-0 with two goals from Young and another from Brand. Qualification for the World Cup finals in Chile now looked far beyond Ireland.So it proved. Five months later Ireland welcomed Czechoslovakia to Dalymount Park and suffered a 1-3 defeat on October 8, 1961. And a disastrous run of results was extended when Czechoslovakia won the return match in Prague 7-1 on October 29, 1961. It remains to this day (April 2011) Ireland's record World Cup defeat.Ireland lost 2-3 to Austria in a friendly in April 1962 before the draw for the European Championship paired them with Iceland in knock-out, two-legged, first round tie. The first match was set for Dalymount on August 12, 1962.Alan Kelly was restored to goal after a five-year break and although he was beaten twice it proved a relatively comfortable win for Ireland. Liam Tuohy and Amby Fogarty scored for Ireland and Noel Cantwell, operating at centre-forward, claimed two more in the last 25 minutes.The return in Reykjavik on September 2, 1962, proved a more difficult assignment as Iceland's selection of amateur players defended defiantly. Ireland were forced to settle for a disappointing 1-1 draw after taking a first half lead through Dermot Curtis.Ireland's football supporters are nothing if not optimistic, however, and when Ireland defeated Scotland in a friendly on June 9, 1963, with a goal scored by the remarkable Noel Cantwell, European Championship ambitions were again running high.Cantwell captained Manchester United to win the FA Cup in 1963 and was an accomplished defender at left-back or centre-back. He was unusually versatile and was a successful cricket player with Cork and Munster before he concentrated on football. He served Ireland well as a makeshift centre-forward while they struggled to settle on a consistent spearhead in this era.The European Championship draw paired Ireland with Austria, who had always proven difficult opponents, in a two-legged tie with the winners going forward to the quarter-finals of the competition. And Ireland achieved a marvellous draw in Vienna in a scoreless first leg on September 25, 1963.It was a much-changed Ireland for Cantwell was among those missing and Ireland had a new full-back partnership in Willie Browne and Tommy Traynor. Browne, playing in the League of Ireland with Bohemians, was the last amateur to play for Ireland and two others made their debuts that day - Ray Brady, elder brother of Liam, and Ronnie Whelan whose son, of the same name, would play for Ireland twenty years later.The return match again drew an excited and expectant capacity attendance to Dalymount Park on October 13, 1963 and they thrilled to a game that provided extravagant and dramatic entertainment and a thrilling climax.Austria took the lead and Cantwell, once again playing at centre-forward, equalised. A second half header from Amby Fogarty found the net as Ireland jumped into the lead and the fans surged on to the pitch as they had done during the half-time interval.At one point there was a fear that the Danish referee, Thor Poulsen, would abandon the game but order was restored and amid growing tension, Austria struck to equalise with eight minutes to play.Ireland powered back into attack and besieged the Austrian penalty area. All was pandemonium and confusion again when a defender handled and the referee pointed to the penalty spot. The fans surged onto the playing surface for a third time.Cantwell stood tall and erect over the ball for several long minutes while the pitch was cleared. Then he demonstrated the swashbuckling qualities that made him such a popular figure by pointing dramatically to a spot, high in the roof of the net, where he intended to put the ball. He smashed it with total conviction beyond the diving goalkeeper and the fans streamed on in celebration.Ireland were now in the quarter-finals and were drawn against Spain. Ireland had never advanced this far in any competition and when the representative team of the League of Ireland defeated the English League selection at Dalymount Park 2-1 with goals from Eddie Bailham and Ronnie Whelan, the standing of Irish football was never so high.The first leg against Spain in Seville on March 11, 1964, amounted to a grim reality check. Spain played devastating football and their quicksilver forwards ran Ireland a merry dance. They won 5-1 to make the second leg a mere formality.The return leg took place on April 8, 1964 and again Spain were in control. They won 2-0 and Ireland were left to wonder just what was needed to make the break-through to reach the concluding rounds of one of the major championships.
11th Apr 2011