FAI History Chapter 7 – World Cup 1954
The spread of international competition for Ireland stretched to South America in May 1951 when Argentina became the first from that continent to journey to Dalymount Park.The failure to Finland and Sweden in the World Cup qualifiers had a dis-spiriting effect on Ireland who were beaten 5-1 by Belgium in Brussels next time out and then drew with Norway at Dalymount in a disappointing 2-2 match in November 1950.The attraction of Argentina was reflected in the attendance of 40,000 for a match in which Shamrock Rovers goalkeeper Freddie Kiernan made his international debut. Kiernan was later to move to Southampton and making his debut alongside him against Argentina was Jim Higgins of Birmingham City.Argentina won the match by the only goal from Labruna nine minutes into the second half. They held Ireland scoreless despite the best efforts of ‘Kit' Lawlor, Davy Walsh and Reg Ryan to embellish the Irish performance with a goal.The atmosphere surrounding the game and the spirited performance helped lift Irish spirits again. Enthusiasm was high when Ireland travelled to Oslo and defeated Norway 3-2 with Paddy Coad scoring the winning goal two weeks after the Argentina match,There was an element of coincidence about the visit of West Germany to Dalymount in October 17, 1951. It was the first visit overseas after the War of a German team now divided and it was Ireland who provided the opposition in Bremen in 1939 in one of the Germans last match before the conflict.Jackie Carey missed the game because of injury while Peter Farrell and Tommy Eglington were by now well established internationals with Everton after winning their first international caps with Shamrock Rovers. They enjoyed spectacular careers at Everton and contributed to the establishment of an Irish dynasty at Goodison Park.The visitors were to play under the name of West Germany for most of forty years and in that time they established themselves as Europe's top team and worthy challengers to Brazil for nomination as the most successful footballing nation in the world.They did not enjoy such an exalted reputation in 1951 and it was with some confidence that the Irish selectors called up two Irish-based players to the team - Florrie Burke of Cork Athletic and Dessie Glynn of Drumcondra. Burke was a big, talented centre-half while Glynn was a livewire centre-forward who had scored lots of goals for his club.Arthur Fitzsimons turned on the style in midfield for Ireland who led 2-0 at half-time after a compelling 45 minutes of football. The German captain, Fritz Walter, departed the pitch with an injury in the first half but his return after the break fired up his team-mates.Germany cut the deficit through Morlock before Walter fired home an equaliser in the 75th minute. Dessie Glynn delivered for Ireland, confirming his scoring ability by finishing off a move between Farrell and Eglington.West Germany actually had the ball in the net a third time on the stroke of full-time and the English referee, Fred Ling, disallowed a goal on the basis that he had blown while the ball was in flight ! The visitors were not best pleased.Ireland then prepared for a return visit to Germany and included in the programme a second match against Austria. It was a programme that placed huge demands upon the Irish and a test that proved beyond them.Ireland lost to West Germany 0-3 in Cologne on May 4, 1952, and four days later had to endure a 0-6 loss to Austria in Vienna.The indignities for Ireland did not end there for within a month, Ireland travelled to Madrid to play Spain and introduced a new goalkeeper, Jimmy O'Neill, from Everton. It was not a happy introduction for O'Neill as Spain ran Ireland around the pitch and harvested six goals without conceding.In spite of such an horrendous run of results with 15 goals conceded and none scored in three matches, Ireland still drew 40,000 fans to Dalymount Park for a first match against France on November 16, 1952. The crush of the crowd caused some spectators to be accommodated on the touchlines and a stormy match ensued, one that ended 1-1.The visit of Austria to Dalymount on March 25, 1953, once again drew a capacity attendance and there was much speculation in the days leading up to the match on the likely outcome after Austria's mauling of Ireland in Vienna the previous year.The match was most significant because it marked Jackie Carey's last game for Ireland after a career that spanned the War and involved 29 international appearances for Ireland and seven more for Northern Ireland.It proved an auspicious occasion for the Irish struck form to defeat Austria 4-0 and recorded their best win since they had defeated England. Alf Ringstead claimed two of the goals, Tommy Eglington and Peter Farrell the others.This was the perfect result to fire Irish ambitions again when they were drawn with France and Luxembourg in the qualifying tournament for the World Cup of 1954, the finals of which were scheduled for Switzerland.The opening match of the sequence clearly held the key to qualification for France travelled to Dalymount on October 4, 1953. And the fans played their part with a record of attendance of 45,000 being returned.Happily the game did not carry any legacy of ill-will from the controversial contest of 1952 and the fans thrilled to a game that produced eight goals and a plethora of goalmouth incidents.Sadly for Ireland most of them occurred in the Irish penalty area as France won 5-3. One of the Irish goalscorers was Frank O'Farrell, a skilful half-back who would go on to manage Manchester United after enjoying success as a manager with Leicester City.This settled the issue of qualification in the minds of many but Ireland had to lift themselves to ensure they pursued the points they needed to take advantage of any unpredictable occurrences in the remaining matches.Luxembourg travelled for the second game in the series three weeks after France and Ireland made changes with Noel Cantwell of West Ham and Liam Monroe of Shamrock Rovers being introduced. The team was captained by Tommy Eglington and Shay Gibbons, of St. Patrick's Athletic, brought the local representation to two.Ireland dominated the game and ran out comfortable 4-0 winners with two goals from Arthur Fitzsimons and one each from Reggie Ryan and Eglington.The return match against France in November 1953 was obviously of critical importance to Ireland and the national radio station, Radio Eireann, responded to the demands of the day by offering their listeners for the first time a live commentary on an away match.France had to work much harder on this occasion for a return but their 1-0 win ensured that any lingering doubts about qualification for the finals were removed. Ireland were upset at losing again for they protested vehemently that the goal should have been disallowed because full-back Robin Lawler had been fouled in the build-up.Ireland had failed again to take a place amongst the elite at the World Cup finals but the FIFA Congress that was held in conjunction with the tournament in Berne was still of significance for the Irish.Until then the two Associations had called their representative teams Ireland but FIFA ruled that the South would be known as the Republic of Ireland and the Belfast organisation would play under the appellation Northern Ireland.It was an appropriate solution to an issue that had caused some misgivings over the years. On Sunday, November 7th, 1954, the Republic of Ireland celebrated their first game under the new name by beating Norway at Dalymount Park 2-1 with goals from Con Martin and Reg Ryan.The game was of historical importance for included in the Irish team was Fionan Fagan of Manchester City. His father, Jack, had played in the very first game against Italy in 1926, so they became the first father-and-son couple to play for Ireland.Another family double was marked on May 1st, 1955, when Ireland played Holland at Dalymount Park. Jack Fitzgerald of Waterford was included in the Irish team and later his brother Peter represented Ireland five times. Two more Fitzgerald brothers, Tom and Ned, won amateur international honours.Jack celebrated his first international appearance with a goal on his debut and Ireland continued a good run next time out when they beat Norway in Oslo on May 25, 1955. The score was 3-1 with George Cummins scoring two of the goals and Alf Ringstead the other.Three days later Ireland played the West German team in Hamburg who had won the World Cup in Switzerland, sensationally beating Hungary in the final. The Germans went two goals in front but Ireland showed plenty of spirit as Sean Fallon got one goal back.The FAI were involved in controversy of a new kind in October 1955 when Yugoslavia were set to visit Dalymount Park. Their projected visit drew the wrath of the Catholic Church and specifically the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr. John Charles McQuaid.He chose to interpret the visit of Yugoslavia as an endorsement of President Tito's communist regime and he urged all Catholics to boycott the game. Radio Eireann staff responded by refusing to work at the game but, in spite of demonstrations outside the stadium, the attendance reached 22,000.Yugoslavia played impressively and won the game 4-1 with Arthur Fitzsimons claiming Ireland's goal.
8th Apr 2011