RAY HOUGHTON’S LOOPING header and images of Packie Bonner flinging his Donegal bulk all over Stuttgart to thwart England’s Bearsley, Hoddle and Robson inspired a generation of Irish youths to embrace football.
Gordon Hamilton’s try against the Aussies at the 1991 World Cup was the catalyst for Ireland captain Jamie Heaslip to pursue a rugby career – the match ball is on his parent’s mantlepiece.
Donegal’s Eamon McGee was eight-years-old when he watched his county and capture the All-Ireland for the first time, in 1992. Sam Maguire visited his school in Gweedore two weeks later – he was hooked.
Stunning Wimbledon finals like Graf v Novotná  or Ivanisevic v Rafter  have sent us out onto roads with tennis rackets and tow ropes wrapped around trees to act as nets.
A Belfast youth plays tennis against a Mo Mowlam mural on the Nationalist Lower Ormeau Road. (Brian Little/PA)
The earliest game I can recall was Manchester United, inspired by Gordon Strachan, and their 3-1 win over West Ham in March 1988.
The best memories I have, however, were watching the Italian football highlights and the great AC Milan side of Van Basten, Donadoni, Baresi, Massaro and co. They had some rare old battles with Careca and Maradona of Napoli but their class often shone through.
One game that summed up everything that was fantastic about Milan in the late 80s and early 90s was their 8-2 victory over Foggia in 1992 [with Bepe Signiori in the starting line-up]. Foggia went 2-1 up in the first half but Marco Simone and Marco Van Basten – and Rudd Guillit with a wonder strike – had something to say about that.
YouTube credit: Kolygor
Here are some more ‘first match’ memories from TheScore.ie and TheJournal.ie team.
First game I remember watching on telly was Cork’s footballers winning the All-Ireland in 1989 against Mayo. I hit the town hard after that one.
‘Mines a Kia Ora’. TJ Kilgallon sits back as Larry Tompkins strides on. (©INPHO/James Meehan)
The first game I remember watching on TV was the World Cup Final between Argentina and West Germany in 1986. I was only seven and I remember wondering why all the players had walked off the pitch after just 45 minutes.
I started following Manchester United when idly channel-hopping and coming across the 1993 Charity Shield. United in red versus Arsenal in yellow, in blazing August, Wembley sunshine. I picked red. That was 19 years and three months ago.
Roy Keane, on his United debut, takes on Andy Linighan of Arsenal. (PA Archive)
It was the 1991 League Cup final in which Manchester United lost to Sheffield Wednesday. My dad brought me to my uncle’s house to watch it – we only had two channels at the time – even though they were both Liverpool fans.
It’s a move he probably regrets as I decided I quite liked Manchester United that day [despite their 1-0 defeat] and switched my allegiances from Liverpool. Behaviour only a nine-year-old could get away with really.
The first games I remember watching on TV were Ireland’s at Italia ’90. I was just turned five so memories are hazy except that after we got knocked out all the Dads and kids from our road carried a huge Irish flag around the village. I didn’t have time to get my shoes so I did the walk in my socks.
‘You’ll definitely equal that Irish record now Quinny’. (©INPHO/Billy Stickland)
Ireland versus Northern Ireland in a crucial 93 World Cup qualifier that ultimately helped seal our qualification. Don’t think I was quite aware of the game’s significance at the time, but I remember cheering vociferously at the outcome nonetheless.
Moreover, I recently did a podcast with Alan McLoughlin – the player who got that famous equaliser for Ireland on the night – and can confirm he is as nice as he is legendary.
YouTube credit: CuChoileain
“It justified his existence for the last two years,” joked Charlton after Ireland landed back in Dublin and Andy Townsend sipped on wine.
Those were the days.
*What was the first match you remember watching on TV?