Access exclusive podcasts, interviews and analysis with a monthly or annual membership

Become A Member
Dublin: 8°C Tuesday 20 April 2021

5 highlights from the first part of RTÉ's Boys in Green documentary

From Eamon Dunphy’s shame to John Aldridge’s embarrassment, via an oddly bad John Giles prediction.

The first part of The Boys in Green documentary aired on RTE Óne tonight. Here, we reflect on some of its more notable moments…

Giles John Giles.

1. ‘I wouldn’t have put a bad penny on Jack being a success…’

John Giles, of course, is one of the most perceptive football minds in the history of the State, but he didn’t see his old team-mate Jack Charlton being a successful Irish manager when he got the gig ahead of Bob Paisley. 

“There was Jack and the rest of us. I wouldn’t talk to him about football, there’d be a row. We were chalk and cheese. I wouldn’t have put a bad penny on Jack being a successful manager. I wouldn’t have given him a prayer.” 

While his old RTÉ comrade is bringing out a book called Wrong About Everything, we don’t mind Giles admitting to being wrong about something. 

2. ‘I had to chase the bollocks off the defender…’

Perhaps if Jack swapped the flat cap for a baseball cap he might have become known for gegenpressing. But while he was stubborn and inflexible and Ireland were occasionally too loyal to it, Charlton divined a genuinely innovative style of play for Ireland, which would go on to be a vital part of the gameplans devised by some of the game’s top managers. 

Ronnie Whelan quoted Jack’s instructions. “This is what I want you to do. Full-back: put it right in that corner. Aldo: you put that full-back under pressure.”

“I had to chase the bollocks off the defender”, remembers Aldridge. “I had to chase him and chase him, and when I got him into a corner, we’d all go to him.”

“Jack said that all international players think they’re great players”, says Whelan, “so they’d try to play out from the back. So we’d put them under pressure from there. ”

3. ‘The seeds of future disaster…’ 

Declan Lynch is a great addition to the film, as he builds on some of the themes of his fantastic book on Italia ’90, Days of Heaven. One of which was that Euro ’88 and the World Cup “sowed the seeds of future disaster”, in the sense that it was the first time Irish people borrowed money en masse, a byzantine practice that was up to that point reserved for men like Charles Haughey. 

Be part
of the team

Access exclusive podcasts, interviews and analysis with a monthly or annual membership.

Become a Member

It’s a point worth dwelling on: that if Jack’s Army was the point at which the Celtic Tiger began, how bitterly ironic it is that the FAI would be laid so low decades later following the tenure of a Chief Executive who carried on like the last relic of those excessive days. 

4. ‘I was very proud, and wired a bit…

It’s true that Eamon Dunphy enjoyed life as the enfant terrible of Irish journalism, but he suffered too much for his comments after the Egypt game at Italia ’90. His children had their bike tyres slashed at school, while his car was surrounded and rocked when he landed back at Dublin airport following a Sunday Indo trip to Italy. 

The hysterical reaction against him was stoked mainly by Mick McCarthy’s saying the squad was “ashamed he’s Irish too” in response to the erroneous quoting of Dunphy’s pen-tossing reaction on television. McCarthy was told that Dunphy said he was ashamed to be Irish after that performance; in reality Dunphy merely said he was ashamed of the performance. 

His recollection here was a clear-eyed, thoughtful reflection on that time. 

It was a Sunday game. The whole nation was watching the team and it had a certain meaning for myself and John and people of our vintage who remembered soccer as the despised, foreign game. Ahead of that game I was very proud and wired a bit, as this was great.

“God we were terrible and I was sitting there with John and Bill thinking, ‘Jesus, the one day we had the attention of the whole country, and we play that kind of rubbish’. I was raging.”

(It was also nice to see RTÉ captioned Giles and Dunphy as belonging to the Evening Herald and Sunday Indo – this was a golden age of newspapers.)

Aldo John Aldridge. Source: RTÉ

5. ‘I’m embarrassed when I see it now…’

The nation passed Keane-on-Overmars into myth not realising we had Aldridge-on-Hagi all along. With Aldridge struggling with injury, his brain short-circuited in the heat of the last-16 tie with Romania, and decided he’d help out his team-mates before inevitably succumbing to substitution.

“I’ve thought, I’m going to do him before half time and help the lads, not thinking I could have got sent off, and should have got sent off. If you see it now, I just wellied him. I’m embarrassed when I see it now!” 

About the author:

Gavin Cooney

Read next:


This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel