With Ireland once again having to go through the play-offs in a major European competition, you can forgive sports fans in the country for thinking back to one of the worst moments in Irish sporting history.
November 2019 saw the ten-year anniversary of Thierry Henry’s shocking handball that ended Ireland’s hopes of making it to the World Cup in South Africa in 2010. Few will ever forget the ghost of Mr Va-Va Voom and his actions that fateful night in Dublin.
But it’s important to remain positive, so instead of focusing on the bad times, let’s take a look at some of Ireland’s greatest sporting achievements.
Super Ray’s Double Delight
When we think of Ireland’s best sporting moments, particularly football, one-man springs immediately to mind.
Super Ray Houghton, who wasn’t born with that prefix to his name but for whom it’s now welded on, produced not one, but two feats of goalscoring brilliance to send Irish fans into ecstasy.
The first came at Euro ’88, when Ireland met the old enemy England. In what was a historic victory, the men in green prospered thanks to Houghton’s goal, who secured his place in the pantheon of Irish sporting legend forever.
Fast forward six years and he was at it again, blasting the ball past the Italy defence to score one of the best goals ever witnessed in the green shirt.
Go on, Super Ray!
Beating Them in Their Own Backyard
For rugby fans from the UK and Ireland, there is one main objective in the sport: smashing everyone else in the park in the Six Nations and winning the Grand Slam.
It was a feat that Ireland had achieved just two times before, but with England playing as the home team in 2018 it was always going to be an uphill task to repeat the trick.
But Rory Best’s men were made of stern stuff, and having already landed the Six Nations trophy with four straight wins, they headed to English rugby HQ at Twickenham looking to make history.
And did they ever: the 24-15 victory in England’s own backyard will forever rate as one of Irish rugby’s greatest ever triumphs.
Harrington Makes History
When Shane Lowry won the Open Championship at Royal Portrush in the summer, it sparked scenes of wild celebration rarely seen on a golf course before. Plenty of pints of the black stuff were sunk that fateful Sunday night – many by the man himself.
However, Lowry’s predecessor Padraig Harrington trumped him a decade ago by winning back-to-back editions of the Open – becoming the first Irish champion of golf’s ultimate test.
There was a huge following at Carnoustie to follow the genial Irishman home as one of the most dramatic conclusions in the event’s history unfolded.
Harrington took on Sergio Garcia in a play-off after the pair could not be separated, and after four holes of excruciatingly nervy golf, the Irishman eventually prevailed – sinking the winning putt to unleash a triumphant roar that could be heard all the way back home in Dublin.
Crafty Ken Does the Unthinkable
Heading into the 1997 World Snooker Championships, Stephen Hendry was looking to claim what would have been a sixth straight world title – an unbelievable achievement from arguably the best player the sport has ever seen.
However, the world number one had not accounted for a lovable Irishman with a twinkle in his eye.
Ken Doherty was the seventh seed for the tournament, but he wasn’t expected to progress all that far with meetings against another legend in Steve Davis and a future great in John Higgins scheduled for the second and third rounds.
But Crafty Ken, as he became known, proved too hot to handle, and he made it all the way to the final where he would meet that man Hendry.
An easy win for the defending champion? Not at all, as Doherty blasted Hendry aside to win 18-12 and become the first world snooker champion from southern Ireland.
These are just some of Ireland’s finest sporting moments… here’s to many more to come!