Saturday 4 February 2023 Dublin: 9°C
# Looking Back
Eamon Dunphy's kiss and 4 other things we learned from Packie Bonner's new book
Also, the legendary Irish goalkeeper gives his thoughts on the notorious Saipan incident and the 1994 World Cup, among other topics.

1. He was incredibly nervous before the 1994 World Cup

“IN 1994, ON the eve of the game against one of the favourites for the tournament, I needed a psychologist or, at the very least, a goalkeeping coach.

“I have never forgotten that feeling and it has stayed with me right through to the work I now do for Uefa assisting professional goalkeeping coaches to achieve their first ever Uefa diploma. At this level, the psychological element probably makes the difference in whether a goalkeeper can really fulfil his potential.”

2. He received a sympathetic kiss from Eamon Dunphy after his howler against Holland

sp1873 / YouTube

“Coming out of the lift (the Americans call it an ‘elevator’) I bumped into Eamon Dunphy — the scourge of the Irish sporting media. A man who would forensically examine an Éire performance and give his opinion without fear or favour.

“A man who had the power to wield his views like the Ten Commandments and bend the narrative towards his point of view on the obscure moments in a match that had affected the outcome even if you had not realised it at the time.

“My mistake, the one that had effectively knocked us out of the competition, was meat and drink for his analysis and yet, as I emerged from the lift, he came up to me without uttering a word, reached up to me and planted a kiss on my cheek!

“Now, to many that may have had the connotations of a biblical betrayal, it might have Jesus/Judas connotations and I did not know quite how to read it, but I do know that when it came to writing up the report of the match, Eamon Dunphy took the long view rather than the easy one which was to blame Packie Bonner.”

3. Roy Keane’s departure from the squad after the notorious Saipan incident ‘galvanised’ the Irish team and may have enhanced rather than hindered their performance, as players were no longer ‘walking on eggshells’ owing to his intimidating presence

Mick McCarthy and Roy Keane DIGITAL INPHO INPHO

“For me, personally, pure conjecture: I don’t know if there was something going on in Roy’s life and I could not surmise what it was. When I look back at the pattern of behaviour, from the Taoiseach’s meeting in Dublin; the solitary figure reading his book in Amsterdam Airport while his teammates were having a laugh; the long, lonely walks on the beach; and, of course, the strange discourse out on the training pitch — all of these incidents pointed to a man who was not at ease with himself or his surroundings.”

4. He admits that the Irish staff didn’t notice Spain playing with 10 men during the famous last-16 encounter in 2002

“This match taught me that, as one of the assistants, you have to be almost an antenna for the manager, especially when everyone is getting excited around you, and I have to put my hands up along with the rest of the backroom staff in saying that we, none of us, noticed that as the second period of extra-time started, Spain were playing with ten men. They had made all their three substitutions and when injury struck, they opted to play with a reduced number of outfield players.

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“It was a grave error on our part and annoying as the game went to penalty kicks.”

5. He was not happy with Brian Kerr re-introducing Roy Keane to the Irish set-up

“I didn’t think Roy should have been given the opportunity; after all, he had the chance to come back before and turned it down.

“I have to be honest and say I seriously thought about walking away from the job, but in the end, I came to the conclusion: why should I? I was not the one who left the squad and it was never in my make-up to consider putting myself before my country. I had a serious job to do, to help the international goalkeepers, guys who turned up without question or favour when selected and worked endlessly to achieve success for the cause.”

The Last Line by Packie Bonner is published by Ebury Press. More info here.

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