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Dublin: 3 °C Tuesday 18 February, 2020

Alan McLoughlin on the goal that took Ireland to the 1994 World Cup 21 years on

Today marks the anniversary of the Irish team’s pivotal qualifier with Northern Ireland.

Eddie McGoldrick celebrates with Alan McLoughlin at the end of the match against Northern Ireland.
Eddie McGoldrick celebrates with Alan McLoughlin at the end of the match against Northern Ireland.
Image: INPHO

IT’S 21 YEARS ago today since Alan McLoughlin scored the pivotal goal that was ultimately enough to take Ireland to the 1994 World Cup.

Facing a daunting trip to Windsor Park to play Northern Ireland, the Irish team needed a win to ensure a place in the World Cup, while a draw would be enough provided the other teams vying for qualification, Denmark and Spain, did not also draw.

On 71 minutes however, disaster struck for the Republic, when a spectacular Jimmy Quinn volley put Northern Ireland into the lead.

However, five minutes later, the visitors equalised. A free kick into the box was only half cleared, and McLoughlin hit a beautifully struck shot from the edge of the box, finding the corner of the net in the process.

“I’ve scored far better goals than it on a technical level,” McLoughin tells 21 years on. “It was just the pressure of the night [that made it special]. And more importantly, I was just delighted to have scored my first international goal.

“When you see the YouTube video [see below], it’s not just the case that I’ve scored the goal that’s taken us to the World Cup, it was ‘thank god I’ve scored my first international goal’. It was the main thing I was worried about.”

The goal ultimately secured Ireland’s place at the World Cup, as the game ended 1-1, while 10-man Spain held out for a hard-fought 1-0 victory in Sevilla over European champions Denmark, eliminating them in the process.

Source: gregpent/YouTube

Moreover, in subsequent interviews, then-manager Jack Charlton claims he specifically asked McLoughlin to wait on the edge of the box for the ball to come to him at set pieces. However, the goalscoring hero denies that Charlton’s instructions were as detailed as the former coach has since intimated.

“What Jack said to me before was get on, cause a few problems, get between the lines and try to get us a goal. A manager in that situation doesn’t have too much technical detail to give to a player unless you’re asking him to do something specific. Jack knew what I could do. I’d hit the bar twice, hit the post once, had shots scrambled off the line and come very close on a few occasions.

“So Jack knew I could be a threat, plus at the time, I was playing particularly well for Portsmouth and scoring goals on a regular basis.

“When I came on, Jimmy Quinn’s goal took the wind out of our sails a little bit.  [The equaliser] wasn’t the greatest goal I’ve ever scored, but it was the most significant goal, because people are still talking about it 21 years later and it took us to the World Cup.”

Yet McLoughlin’s intrinsic modesty means he still somewhat downplays his importance to the team.

“I was a small part of that, it was my only contribution in the qualifying campaign, whereas other players had played more games. Some of them maybe didn’t get the limelight I attracted by scoring that goal late on.

“But I’m grateful for that, because it justified my inclusion in the squad up until that point and justified my staying in the squad for 11 and a half years as well.

“One or two people still come up to me and talk about it. Obviously my appearance has changed with the cancer treatment and my hair fell out [so I'm harder to recognise] — though it’s just starting to grow back a little bit. But people will still tell me where they were that night, whether they were home with the family etc, so it’s lovely.”

A Different Shade of Green: The Alan McLoughlin Story by Bryce Evans and Alan McLoughlin is published by Ballpoint Press. For more info, click here.

Roy Keane thinks the Irish players need to have ‘more pride’ on the ball>

Alan McLoughlin’s ghost on his love for Roy Keane, the genius of Jack Charlton and the ‘abysmal’ FAI>

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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