memory lane

15 years on: Remembering Ireland's play-off heartbreak against Turkey

An away goal ended hopes of qualification to Euro 2000 for the Boys in Green.

Tony Cascarino and Alpay Ozalan 13/11/1999 DIGITAL Tony Cascarino comes over the top of Turkish defender Alpay. Tom Honan / INPHO Tom Honan / INPHO / INPHO

IN 1999, MICK McCarthy was aiming to earn qualification to a major tournament for the first time as Ireland manager having missed out on the World Cup finals the previous year.

Belgium had got the better of Ireland over two legs to earn a spot at France ’98.  This time, they would meet Turkey in the play-offs after a disappointing 1-1 draw with Macedonia saw them finish second in Group 8 behind Yugoslavia.

The Turks were an accomplished side with familiar faces such as former Aston Villa defender Alpay, ex-Blackburn Rovers midfielder Tugay, record goalscorer Hakan Suker up front and Rustu Recber between the sticks — who would go on to have a brief spell at Barcelona.

On 13 November, Lansdowne Road hosted the first leg with McCarthy picking Alan Kelly in goal and a back four of Stephen Carr, Gary Breen, Kenny Cunningham and Denis Irwin. Roy Keane partnered the industrious Lee Carsley in the middle while Rory Delap and Kevin Kilbane were named on the flanks.

Up top, a young Robbie Keane started alongside veteran Tony Cascarino.

Kelly was forced into a couple of smart saves while Kilbane threatened Rustu at the other end. On 79 minutes, Irwin won possession in an advanced area before playing in Connolly who in turn fed Keane and the Coventry City striker did the rest.

It was briefly looking good for Ireland but disaster struck four minutes later when referee Anders Frisk pointed to the spot after Carsley handled in the box. With Kelly gone off injured, Tayfun Korkut dispatched the spot-kick past substitute Dean Kiely to hand Turkey a valuable away goal in a 1-1 draw.

sp1873 / YouTube

Four days later, Ireland travelled to Bursa for the return leg in front of a hostile crowd at the Atatürk Stadium. The teams played out a scrappy game in difficult windy conditions with Ireland restricted to half-chances and the home side coming close on a number of occasions.

Damien Duff 17/11/1999 Damien Duff gets away from his man. Patrick Bolger / INPHO Patrick Bolger / INPHO / INPHO

Ireland did have the ball in the back of the net once but the whistle had already gone for a free-kick out before Turkey crashed a header off the bar. Ultimately, the away goal in Dublin would prove decisive as it ended 0-0 meaning Ireland’s absence from a major tournament would stretch to eight years.

There were also ugly scenes after the final whistle as a number of Turkish players and fans attacked Cascarino before the big forward was escorted off the pitch by riot police along with the rest of the Irish team. That would be Big Cas’ last involvement in a green shirt as he then announced his international retirement.

The 37-year-old was hit with a four-match ban while the FAI were fined £5,000 as a result of the incident.

Tony Cascarino 17/11/1999 Patrick Bolger / INPHO Patrick Bolger / INPHO / INPHO

Roy Keane 17/11/1999 Tom Honan / INPHO Tom Honan / INPHO / INPHO

sp1873 / YouTube


This is the new jersey Ireland will wear against Turkey today

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