seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Republic of Ireland Advances to the Round-of-16 at Euro 2016

Robbie Brady heads the Republic of Ireland into the round-of-16 of Euro 2016 as the Irish score in the 85th minute to sensationally defeat Italy 1-0 at Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Villeneuve-d’Ascq, France on June 22, 2016. In addition to congratulatory remarks to the team, President Michael D. Higgins pays tribute to the Irish fans who “have earned widespread acclaim for their behaviour in France.”

Brady heads home the only goal of the match as Ireland seals progress after finishing third in Group E with four points. The victory sets up a round-of-16 meeting with Euro 2016 host France in Lyon, their first meeting since the controversial 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifier that saw them controversially defeated as the result of a Thierry Henry handball.

Ireland had been unfortunate to draw their opener against Sweden and, while they then suffered a sobering 3-0 loss to Belgium, they do not appear to have suffered a loss of confidence against the Azzurri. Ireland goes into the match against Italy knowing only a win will secure progress but they are given hope when Italy manager Antonio Conte, who is already certain of top spot, makes eight changes to the side that defeated Sweden.

Jeff Hendrick sends a fierce drive just wide from outside the box on nine minutes, while Daryl Murphy‘s header brings a fingertip save from Salvatore Sirigu midway through the half. It is not until six minutes before the break that Italy shows any sort of threat, with Ciro Immobile swiveling before steering a shot wide. Ireland then sees a penalty appeal rejected when James McClean goes down under pressure from Federico Bernardeschi.

Ireland continues to press for a winner in the second half, but Simone Zaza provides a reminder of Italy’s quality on 53 minutes with a superb volley on the turn from Mattia De Sciglio‘s cross that sails just over the bar. At the other end, Ireland continues to make chances but finds it difficult to break through a stubborn Italy defence. With just over an hour gone Hendrick does make space for a shot in the area, but his shot is wayward.

Conte brings on Lorenzo Insigne for Immobile on 73 minutes and the Napoli forward nearly breaks the deadlock shortly afterwards, curling a shot against the far post after a driving run toward goal in similar fashion to Éder‘s late winner against Sweden.

Ireland then has a golden opportunity to break the deadlock when substitute Wes Hoolahan goes clean through on goal, but he scuffs his shot and Sirigu is able to gather at the second attempt. A minute later, they make the breakthrough. Hoolahan sends in the cross for his Norwich City teammate Brady, who is allowed the space to head past Sirigu and send Ireland into the next round.

Italy, who faces reigning champions Spain in the round-of-16, hopes for a much improved performance when their regular starters return to action.

In the round-of-16 match against France, Ireland takes the lead in the match with an early penalty from Robbie Brady, but France goes on to win 2–1 to advance to the quarter-finals

(From: “Republic of Ireland beat Italy to reach round of 16” by ESPN staff, http://www.espn.com, June 22, 2016)


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Republic of Ireland’s First World Cup Finals Match

The Republic of Ireland plays their first ever match in the finals of the World Cup, drawing 1-1 with England in Cagliari, Sardinia on June 11, 1990.

At Italia ’90 the Irish team is drawn in a very tough Group F that includes European champions the Netherlands, African footballing power Egypt, and England. This is something of a coincidence as the English and the Dutch were also in Ireland’s UEFA Euro 1988 group. The tournament organisers are fearful that this grouping might lead to crowd disorder particularly between the English and Dutch fans. The group is based on the Italian islands of Sicily and Sardinia and security is very tight with alcohol bans in place on match days.

Ireland’s first match at a World Cup finals competition is against their longtime foe England. The English are seeking revenge for their surprise defeat by the Irish in the opening group match at Euro ’88. Once again Bobby Robson‘s English team is expected to beat Ireland and his players underline that by taking an early lead through an eight minute goal from Gary Lineker. Despite Ireland getting a greater foothold in the second half an equaliser is elusive until an error by Steve McMahon allows Kevin Sheedy to score in the 73rd minute.

Ireland’s next matches are against Egypt and the Netherlands, both played in Palermo and both ending in a draw. The Irish team finishes group play with 0 wins, 0 losses and 3 draws. England registers the only win in the group, beating Egypt. The three European teams progress into the next round.

In the knock-out round Ireland avoids drawing West Germany, the ultimate winner of the 1990 World Cup. They draw Romania as their first opponent and end regulation in yet another draw in Genoa. A penalty shoot-out follows and after the first eight penalties the teams are still tied at 4-4. Irish goalkeeper Packie Bonner blocks Romania’s fifth penalty kick. David O’Leary steps up confidently and sends his kick past the goalkeeper and into the net. Ireland has advanced to the quarterfinals at the first attempt.

Ireland bows out at the quarterfinals stage losing by a single goal to the hosts, Italy, at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. It is a very strange campaign in that Ireland does not won any of their matches, scores only two goals, and plays in some really poor matches in terms of quality of play. Notwithstanding this the Irish over-achieve which is fully appreciated by the Irish supporters. The green army stays on in the Stadio Olimpico long after the final whistle to laud manager Jack Charlton and his gallant squad.

(From: “Ireland at 1990 World Cup Finals in Italy,” Soccer-Ireland.com, http://www.soccer-ireland.com | Photograph by Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE)


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Birth of Professional Footballer Paul McGrath

Paul McGrath, former professional footballer for St. Patrick’s Athletic F.C., Manchester United F.C., Aston Villa F.C., Derby County F.C., and the Republic of Ireland national football team, is born in Greenford, Middlesex on December 4, 1959.

McGrath is born to an Irish mother and a Nigerian father. His father disappears soon after his conception. His mother, Betty McGrath, is terrified that her father will find out she had become pregnant outside marriage and in an interracial relationship. She travels in secret to London to have her child, who is considered illegitimate, and gives him up for fostering when he is four weeks old. When he is five years old, the family he had been fostered by comes to Betty saying they cannot control him. Betty places him into an orphanage.

McGrath begins as a schoolboy with Pearse Rovers and plays junior football for Dalkey United. While at the latter, he attracts the attention of Manchester United scout Billy Behan. Before becoming a full-time professional with League of Ireland club St. Patrick’s Athletic in 1981, he briefly works as an apprentice metal worker and a security guard in Dublin.

McGrath makes his debut in a League of Ireland Cup clash with the Shamrock Rovers F.C. in August at Richmond Park. He ultimately excels at St. Patrick’s, earning the nickname “The Black Pearl of Inchicore” and receiving the PFAI Players’ Player of the Year Award in his first and only season, scoring four goals in 31 total appearances.

In 1982, McGrath moves to Manchester United, then managed by Ron Atkinson. He misses out on a place in the FA Cup victory over Brighton & Hove Albion F.C. the following year. He is named man of the match for the 1985 FA Cup Final, which United wins 1–0 against Everton F.C. In his early years at Manchester United, he is frequently used as a midfielder, changing to defender while still at Old Trafford.

In 1985–86, it appears that McGrath is on course to pick up a league title medal after United wins their first 10 league games of the season, but injuries to key players including Bryan Robson soon take their toll on the side and they eventually finish fourth in the table, 12 points behind champions Liverpool F.C. Despite a dismal start to the 1986–87 season and a managerial change, McGrath remains a regular member of the first team. United finishes second behind Liverpool in the league a year later.

By the 1988–89 season, McGrath is struggling with knee injuries and is becoming a less regular member of the first team. His relationship with manager Alex Ferguson is becoming strained, as McGrath’s alcohol addiction and physical problems lead to United offering him a retirement package of £100,000. He refuses and Ferguson begins to inform clubs of his availability. Aston Villa’s offer is accepted and McGrath signs on August 3, 1989 for a fee of £400,000.

While at Aston Villa, McGrath plays some of the best football of his career, despite recurrent knee problems. Villa comes close to winning the title in his first season, finishing second to Liverpool. In the inaugural season of the Premier League (1992-93), Aston Villa again finishes as runners-up, behind Manchester United. As a sign of the regard he is now held in by his fellow professionals, McGrath wins the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award at the end of the season. He wins his first trophy with Villa, defeating Manchester United in the 1993–94 Football League Cup. In 1996 he wins a second League Cup for Villa. By the end of his Villa career he has chalked up 323 appearances for the club.

McGrath departs Aston Villa in the autumn of 1996, leaving a legacy as one of the greatest players in the club’s history. He is sold to Derby County for £200,000 and helps the newly promoted Rams finish 12th in its first Premier League season. He then drops down a division to sign for Sheffield United F.C. in the summer of 1997. He plays his final game as a professional for Sheffield United against Ipswich Town F.C. on November 9, 1997. He officially retires at the end of the season.

In McGrath’s international career he wins his first full cap against Italy in 1985, last playing 12 years later, against Wales. During that time, he is often regarded as the single most influential player Ireland has in the national team’s glory days.

In McGrath’s international career he is a major part of the breakthrough of Ireland’s national team of the late 1980s and early 1990s. During the early part of Jack Charlton‘s era, he plays as a defensive midfielder, due to the wealth of talent Ireland has in defence. In UEFA Euro 1988, as the national side first qualifies for an international tournament, he is present in the 1–0 group stage win against England.

In 1990, Ireland qualifies for its first FIFA World Cup, eventually reaching the quarter-finals, where they lose to Italy 1-0, with McGrath ever present in the lineups. He captains the team four times in 1992 after the retirement of Mick McCarthy, and ignores a painful shoulder virus to play in the 1994 FIFA World Cup.

In Ireland’s opening game of the 1994 World Cup, a 1–0 win against favourites Italy, in a perfect example of his commitment to the game, McGrath puts up an astonishing defensive performance in spite of excruciating knee problems. Even after his retirement from international football in 1997, he is still regarded today as one of the greatest players ever to put on Ireland’s green shirt.

Upon retiring, McGrath settles in Monageer, County Wexford. In 2004, one year after being taken to court, charged with a breach of the peace, he returns to the football world after five years, moving to Waterford F.C. in Ireland as director of football.

In 2011, McGrath launches a singing career with a cover version of the Gerry Goffin and Carole King song “Goin’ Back.” The recording is followed by the planning of an album of covers by the footballer, with a percentage of the album’s proceeds going to the Acquired Brain Injury Foundation and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Ireland.


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The Loughinisland Massacre

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v80), quality = 90The Loughinisland massacre takes place on June 18, 1994 in the small village of Loughinisland, County Down, Northern Ireland. Members of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), a loyalist paramilitary group, burst into a pub with assault rifles and fire on the customers, killing six civilians and wounding five. The pub is targeted because it is frequented mainly by Catholics. The UVF claims the attack is retaliation for the killing of three UVF members by the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) two days earlier.

About 24 people are gathered in The Heights Bar, also known as O’Toole’s Pub, watching the Republic of Ireland vs. Italy in the 1994 FIFA World Cup. It is thus sometimes referred to as the “World Cup massacre.”

At 10:10 PM, two UVF members wearing boilersuits and balaclavas walk into the bar. One shouts “Fenian bastards!” and opens fire on the crowd with a vz. 58 assault rifle, spraying the small room with more than sixty bullets. Six men are killed outright and five other people are wounded. Witnesses say the gunmen then run to a getaway car, “laughing.” One witness describes “bodies … lying piled on top of each other on the floor.” The dead were Adrian Rogan (34), Malcolm Jenkinson (52), Barney Green (87), Daniel McCreanor (59), Patrick O’Hare (35) and Eamon Byrne (39), all Catholic civilians. O’Hare is the brother-in-law of Eamon Byrne and Green is one of the oldest people to be killed during the Troubles.

The UVF claims responsibility within hours of the attack. It claims that an Irish republican meeting was being held in the pub and that the shooting was retaliation for the INLA attack. Police say there is no evidence the pub had links to republican paramilitary activity and say the attack is purely sectarian. Journalist Peter Taylor writes in his book Loyalists that the attack may not have been sanctioned by the UVF leadership. Police intelligence indicates that the order to retaliate came from the UVF leadership and that its ‘Military Commander’ had supplied the rifle used. Police believe the attack was carried out by a local UVF unit under the command of a senior member who reported to the leadership in Belfast.

The attack receives international media coverage and is widely condemned. Among those who send messages of sympathy are Pope John Paul II, Queen Elizabeth II and United States President Bill Clinton. Local Protestant families visit their wounded neighbours in the hospital, expressing their shock and disgust.

There have been allegations that police (Royal Ulster Constabulary) double agents or informants in the UVF were linked to the massacre and that police protected those informers by destroying evidence and failing to carry out a proper investigation. At the request of the victims’ families, the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland investigate the police. In 2011 the Ombudsman concludes that there were major failings in the police investigation, but no evidence that police colluded with the UVF. The Ombudsman does not investigate the role of informers and the report is branded a whitewash. The Ombudsman’s own investigators demand to be disassociated from it. The report is quashed, the Ombudsman replaced and a new inquiry ordered.

In 2016, a new Ombudsman report concludes that there had been collusion between the police and the UVF, and that the investigation was undermined by the wish to protect informers, but found no evidence police had foreknowledge of the attack. A documentary film about the massacre, No Stone Unturned, is released in 2017. It names the main suspects, one of whom is a member of the British Army, and claims that one of the killers was an informer.