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'Looking back at Italia '90 was all about those key stories and digging deeper into them'

Today is the 30th anniversary of the final at Italia ’90 and a podcast series this month has closely examined that tournament.

IT’S THREE DECADES today since the curtain was brought down on Italia ’90 – a conclusion of German glory, Argentinian dejection and an Irish milestone after a defining tournament.

Andreas Brehme tucked home the late penalty to settle the issue in the final and on the 30th anniversary of that strike in Rome, a recent project born out of lockdown to chronicle the events from Italy will draw to a close.

The 2020 sporting summer was meant to take a different course yet the shutdown of activity sparked the idea for a podcast series, ‘Italia ’90 – One Day at a Time’.

After diligently rewatching every match, today marks the end game.

“You couldn’t do something like this without the lockdown,” says Rob Murphy, the driver of the project, who normally would have been focused on sporting matters involving Mayo football and Connacht rugby over the last few months.

“Myself and Ciaran O’Hara (Sky Sports GAA producer) are big fans of the West Wing weekly podcast. I’d heard someone suggest they should re-run Italia ’90 on RTÉ and that got us thinking about looking back at the tournament. We were anxious to see what we could do.

“We got Mick Foley, Billy Joe Padden and Colin Sheridan involved with us, and got to it. And yes we did rewatch all the games, the lads enjoyed it, I don’t think they would have done it otherwise.”

The matches are not the sole focus, they serve as tentpoles to explore some of the intriguing tales for the tournament. Lubomir Moravcik, a creative midfield genius in the eyes of Celtic fans, is one of the guests as he recalls the travails of his Czechoslovakia side who reached the quarter-finals.

“We wanted to make the retelling of the tournament interesting, the stories were key.  Lubomir talks about how those young lads made a bond for life and that he never got a chance with Slovakia thereafter to express himself at a similar international level.

“There was loads of other stuff like we found Colombia were brilliant to watch, all the Argentinian stuff was fascinating. Some of the football was actually quite impressive, it’s not a tournament fondly remembered for that, but the real problem we found was that the finishing was so awful and goalscoring was a problem.

“Schillaci came out of nowhere for Italy but the quality of number 10s was amazing. Scifo, Valderrama, Matthaus and Gascoigne all vying for attention. Lacatus as well for Romania.”

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And mention of that side who exited at the last 16 brings us to the journey best remembered in these parts from that tournament.

ireland-players-celebrate-dave-olearys-winning-penalty Ireland players celebrate their penalty shootout victory over Romania Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Ireland’s games predictably sparked plenty reactions when examined again all these years later.

“I think emotionally the Romania episode was the most stirring we did,” says Murphy.

“For instance we hadn’t known what the Romania manager was dealing with as his daughter was caught up in protests back home at the time. Speaking to Vincent Hogan really captured the emotion of the day, best summed with his story of veteran soccer journalists around him in tears at seeing Ireland progress after so long waiting for them to do something.

ahmed-el-kass-and-ray-houghton Ray Houghton in action for Ireland against Egypt Source: ©INPHO

“And then the game that was the biggest chore to watch was Ireland Egypt. We’d jokingly built it up but it was as frustrating and bad as we thought it would have been. The broadcast we found was an American one so the commentary was at least entertaining.

“But we got Eamonn Dunphy on to talk about everything that happened around that and he was great. He talked about his regrets from the coverage of that time as it had an impact on his kids and how he was misrepresented and what he felt the whole tournament meant to the country.

“Looking back at Italia ’90 was all about those key stories and digging deeper into them. It’s been brilliant and there’s been a huge listenership as well in a younger bracket. Whether you remember it or are hearing about stuff for the first time, we’ve tried to show it was a seminal moment for football in terms of rule changes, country changes afterwards and of course for everyone in Ireland.”

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Check out @italia90odat on Twitter for more info and search Italia ’90 One Day At A Time on podcast charts to listen in.

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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