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Alan McLoughlin, hero of Ireland's '94 World Cup qualifying campaign, dies at 54

The Irish legend revealed in March that he was suffering from cancer.

Alan McLoughlin won 42 Ireland caps in total.
Alan McLoughlin won 42 Ireland caps in total.
Image: © Tom HonanINPHO

FORMER IRELAND INTERNATIONAL Alan McLoughlin has passed away at the age of 54.

McLoughlin won 42 caps for Ireland between 1990 and 1999, and is best remembered by Irish fans for scoring the crucial goal against Northern Ireland that secured the Republic’s qualification for the 1994 World Cup.

McLoughlin, who began his career as a trainee at Man United, revealed that he was suffering from cancer last March.

He was first diagnosed with a kidney tumour in 2012, which was successfully removed.

In 2019, he was told that the cancer had returned and spread to his chest, lungs, and remaining kidney. 

McLoughlin, whose former clubs included Portsmouth, Swindon and Southampton, subsequently underwent immunotherapy that was unsuccessful, but a daily drug treatment did succeed in shrinking these tumours. 

Earlier this year, another tumour was discovered on his vertebrae, causing it to break and resulting in more successful surgery.

In March, it was announced that he was undergoing radiotherapy treatment for his neck and beginning a new round of medication. 

Born in Manchester, McLoughlin was deeply proud of his Irish roots, despite some criticism of the selection of English-born players during the Jack Charlton era.

In a 2014 interview, he told The42: “My parents are both Irish. I could just as easily have moved to England when I was younger and picked up an English accent. I was proud to play for Ireland and how dare anyone suggest I wasn’t as proud and that I should have been born in Ireland.”

Following today’s news, a Football Association of Ireland statement read: 

“The Football Association of Ireland extends our deepest sympathies to Debbie, Abby and Megan McLoughlin following the death today of our former international midfielder Alan McLoughlin at the age of 54.

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“Alan had bravely faced into a second battle with cancer in recent months with his courage in adversity an example to all those who knew him and loved him.”

FAI President Gerry McAnaney said: “Alan will always be remembered for that goal in Belfast 28 years ago, a goal that brought the entire country to its feet. He was a great player for Ireland, a fantastic footballing man who coached so many young players and a very proud family man. We were lucky to have him as one of our Irish football family and I know I speak on behalf of everyone involved with Irish football when I sympathise with Debbie and his family at this most difficult of times.”

FAI Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Hill added: “This is most tragic news and our thoughts now are with Alan’s wife Debbie, his two daughters and his extended family. I spoke with Alan before we honoured him at the Luxembourg game in March and I know how proud he was of his 42 appearances in the Ireland jersey. He went to two World Cups with Ireland and will always be remembered for that night in November in 1993. May he rest in peace.”

Former club Portsmouth were also among the many paying tribute to McLoughlin, tweeting: “Pompey are sad to confirm that Alan McLoughlin has passed away at the age of just 54. Rest in peace, Macca.”

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Paul Fennessy

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