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Dublin: 19 °C Thursday 6 August, 2020

Hats, tat and the invaluable memories forged during USA '94

Throwaway items, cherished moments.


This article is a part of The42′s USA 94 Week, a special series of commemorative features to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the 1994 Fifa World Cup. To read more from the series, click here >

MEMORIES HAVE A way of attaching themselves to even the most slippery of surfaces.

Sometimes it is a song, a half-familiar face or a whiff of aftershave. The source isn’t always unimportant, but the sense struck and the memories mined can run right to your core.

Even long-disposed-of objects can trigger something within us. A glimpse of them enough to whisk us all the way back to a sultry summer day when we all came together to watch Ireland on the world stage.

During USA ’94 – in the minutes before kick-off of Ireland’s loss to Mexico – my father wilted under pressure and bought a World Cup goody bag in a nearby shop with a remarkable tat-to-floorspace ratio. Within that survival kit, essential for the gradually deflating atmosphere in a Co. Cavan pub, was a hat with a flap to protect your neck from the Orlando sun, or whatever sun you could find. A key-ring. A little flag. A miniature ball. And, most importantly, a battery-powered fan to ensure we didn’t pass out if the afternoon temperatures veered over 20C. Obviously, this fan was a dangerous object and had to be held as close to my sister’s face as possible. Out of love? Sure, why not.

Eventually, with the rest of the table getting tired of our appraisal of the bag’s contents, courage enough was plucked up to stick a 9-year-old thumb in amidst the terrifying whirring blades. Nothing happened.

After multiple digits were risked to the soft orange blades, the batteries ran out. Ireland followed suit and half-time was my signal to get back across the road, out of everyone’s hair and home in time to see John Aldridge unleash fire and fury on a yellow-topped official.


Nothing in that bag survived long after the summer of ’94. Most of it was probably smuggled to a bin before the quarter-finals came along without the Boys in Green bandwagon. But the crappy bits of plastic are still engrained in memory, attached to a time and place.

For the rest of you, it probably wasn’t a flimsy fan that sticks in your mind. It could be some of the t-shirts, trinkets and terrible hats you see below. Or it could be something else entirely that was lost along the way, unlike the memory with which it inter-twined.

1994, some year for the white t-shirt

Irish fans in New York 1994 Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

There is a clump of merchandise around the internet you could get your hands on. You’d be a mug not to want your tea from this beaut.

COYMUGS Source: Retro Stu/Flickr

Few could have predicted Mick McCarthy would go on to be a two-term Ireland manager when he appeared in this eyesore of a Penneys ensemble

If there aren’t enough colour clashes there, there are also MATCHING BERMUDA SHORTS.


Prefer your fabrics man-made and representative of the Irish-American diaspora? O’Neill’s had the ugly gear for your.

And EBay still has it waiting.


These inflatable hats were all the rage

According to the RTE archive footage of the tournament anyway.

hats all folks Source: RTE News Archive

Was a plastic-enveloped head really the way to keep cool though? We didn’t wear it so there’s no way to know for sure.

Essential for any self-respecting Best Fan In The World


A member of The42 staff, who has rightly asked not to be named, was a big fan of these very offensive national-stereotype stickers that came with 5p chewing gums


Like every World Cup, brands were falling over themselves to latch on to World Cup fever.

No mobile phones in them days! But calling home was a joy with Jack and the lads staring back up at you.

1061 Source: EBay

Before 1994, dinner was the most important meal of the day. But the player cards that Coco Popped into our world that summer changed that for good.


Collectable items were a welcome tonic for all the throwaway crap, but did anyone really get these coins?


In fairness, they came with some fetching images of Irish players doing footbally things.

Look at Stan there, holding the ball like its his sixth birthday present.


No collection was complete without the Tommy Coin.


Best of luck going shopping for all that 25-year-old merchandise

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Sure $80 + shipping sounds steep. But can you really face the rest of the 21st century without this stained baseball hat?

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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