The 1998 European U-18 Championships

The story of Ireland's second major tournament victory (!)

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Kerr, George, O'Reilly
A jubilant Brian Kerr celebrates with assistant Noel O'Reilly and winning penalty taker Liam George.

U-18s are Euro Champions!!
19/07/98: Brian Kerr's U-18 side got off to the perfect start in the European Championship in Cyprus today, roundly beating Croatia 5-2. Goals from Liam George, Stephen McPhail, Richie Partridge and Robbie Keane secured Ireland's first win of the three group games, a win that was incredibly important given the nature of the competition, where only the group winners advance to the later stages, in this case straight to the final.
Ireland now play England on Tuesday next, and hosts Cyprus on Thursday 23rd.
The other group consists of Germany, Portugal, Spain and Lithuania.

Dean Delaney (Everton), Alex O'Reilly (West Ham); Gary Doherty (Luton), Keith Doyle (St. Pat's), Richard Dunne (Everton), David Freeman (Notts Forest), Jason Gavin (Middlesbrough), Thomas Heary (Huddersfield); Ger Crossley (Celtic), Paul Donnolly (Leeds), Stephen McPhail (Leeds), Alan Quinn (Sheff Wed), Barry Quinn (Coventry); Robbie Keane (Wolves), Richie Partridge (Liverpool), Liam George (Luton), Ronnie O'Brien (Middlesbrough), Ryan Casey (Swansea)

21/07/98: Ireland's Euro Championship hopes took a severe knockback tonight, as they went down 1-0 to an England side who scarcely deserved their win. There was much to be happy about in the way the Irish played, and in the way the Boys in Green reduced the English to the type of over-the-top football that the best sides allegedly abhor. However, the chances went untaken, and Ireland were mugged with 5 minutes to go, as Leeds' Alan Smith sidefooted home from 8 yards out. But, if England fail to get a result against an improving Croatian side, then it's all open again.

23/07/98: Brian Kerr's youngsters are through to another European final! Having despatched hosts Cyprus 3-0, and with England going down by the same score to the Croats, Ireland comfortably made it into the final on goal difference, thanks to Barry Quinn, and Robbie Keane (twice). Quinn opened the scoring on 19 minutes, heading powerfully to the net from Richard Dunne's precise cross. Just before the break, Robbie Keane allowed Ger Crossley's forward chip to drop over his right shoulder before unleashing an unstoppable volley into the roof of the net. With 12 minutes to go, the same player collected Richie Partridge's pass, skipped past a challenge, and wrapped up the win with a sweet finish.
Despite losing to Portugal, Ireland's opponents in Sunday's final will be the very impressive Germans. The Irish also have the bonus of now being assured of qualification for next summer's U-20 World Cup, in Nigeria.

26/07/98: Ireland's youngsters have pulled off an unprecedented double Euro Championship success, a penalty shoot-out victory over the Germans giving them their second European crown in 11 weeks. Manager Brian Kerr, and his assistant Noel O'Reilly, masterminded yet another victory over Europe's finest, and sent the newly rediscovered optimism amongst the public, regarding the future of Irish football, sky high.
Ireland had to withstand some intense pressure in the opening stages, and, indeed, for the first hour the Germans had the upper hand. Hannover's Sebastian Kehl, Christian Timm of Borussia Dortmund, and especially Duisberg's Thorsten Schramm all had chance after chance to open the scoring, but were frustrated by some defensive heroics, including more than one goal-line clearance. Ireland worked their way back into the game, though, and were pretty much trading on equal terms by the middle of the second half. Then with 20 minutes left, Alan Quinn found Liam George out wide on the right, and began drifting in towards the penalty spot. Robbie Keane received from George and jinked in towards the near post, held off the challenge of the German defenders and flicked an immaculate ball to the waiting Quinn, who gave the 'keeper no chance from 8 yards.
The Irish pulled back after that, inviting the Germans on and looking to hit them on the breakaway. They manufactured several opportunities this way, but failed to take any, with Keane and George guilty of some wasteful finishing. And, heartbreakingly for the Irish, it cost them, as the Germans equalised with just 10 seconds on the clock, Andreas Gensler punishing a loss of concentration with a goal from a similar spot to Alan Quinn's.
The period of extra time passed without any effect on proceedings, except to make tired limbs even more tired, and it was penalties. Alex O'Reilly, who performed heroics all night, stepped up yet again to beat away the first kick from Andreas Voss, and Tobias Schaper struck the post to O'Reilly's left with Germany's second. Robbie Keane (at number 3) had his decently struck effort saved by Timo Hildebrand, but Ryan Casey, Paul Donnelly and Barry Quinn all converted to leave the scores at 3-3 with Ireland to take the last one. Liam George nervelessly tucked his away, sparking a mass stampede of Irish players, officials and sundry personages onto the Larnaca pitch, and putting the finishing touch on a fairytale season for Irish football.

Rep. of Ireland:
Alex O'Reilly (West Ham); Keith Doyle (St. Pat's), Richard Dunne (Everton), Jason Gavin (Middlesbrough), Thomas Heary (Huddersfield); Ger Crossley (Celtic), Stephen McPhail (Leeds), Barry Quinn (Coventry), Richie Partridge (Liverpool); Robbie Keane (Wolves), Liam George (Luton)
Subs: Alan Quinn (Sheff Wed) for Crossley (h/t), Paul Donnelly (Leeds) for McPhail (68), Ryan Casey (Swansea) for Partridge (96)

Hildebrand (VfB Stuttgart); Ernst (Hannover 96), Schramm (MSV Duisberg), Lechner (Kaiserslautern), Rapp (Karlsruhe SC); Gensler (Bayer Leverkusen), Deisler (Borussia Moenchengladbach), Voss (Bayer Leverkusen), Kehl (Hannover 96); Kern (FC Erzgebirge Aue), Timm (Borussia Dortmund)
Subs: Majunke (VfB Stuttgart) for Kern (82), Schaper (Borussia Dortmund) for Deisler (105)

Barry Quinn
Barry Quinn, dejected after defeat by England

Keane, George
Robbie Keane congratulates Liam George on his first against Croatia

All photos courtesy (w/o permission) of
The Irish Times

The Tournament Results:
Qualifying Group B: Sunday, 19/07/98, at Ayia Napa: Rep. of Ireland 5 Croatia 2 George (1, 90) Deranja (24) Keane (9) Bjelanovic (37) McPhail (47) Partridge (65) Tuesday, 21/07/98: Group B at Deryniea: England 1 Rep. of Ireland 0 Smith (85) Thursday, 23/07/98: Group B at Ayia Napa: Rep. of Ireland 3 Cyprus 0 B Quinn (19) Keane (45, 78) Sunday, 26/07/98: Final at Larnaca: Germany 1 Rep. of Ireland 1 (a.e.t. - Ireland win 4-3 on penalties) Gensler (92) A Quinn (71)

Where are they now? - the class of '84
Ireland's previous best showing in any International competition, before the current Golden Era that is, was in reaching the semi-final of this Championship in 1984, where they went down 2-1 to the hosts and eventual winners the U.S.S.R. They also qualified for the 1985 World Youth Cup on the strenght of their showing here.
If anything it was even more of a shock to the system than the current spate of incredible victories, given the senior side's total lack of presence on the International scene in the years before Jack Charlton. Brian Kerr and Noel O'Reilly were involved in the Youth set-up even then, and the team was managed by Liam Tuohy, and together the three could be seen as having sewn the seeds of this current growth explosion in Irish soccer, with Kerr and O'Reilly remaining virtually ever-present to help things along.
But for team that did so well, eventually finishing fourth after being pipped by Poland for third spot, things did not follow the same fairytale path. It is interesting to see just how the players are doing today, when the oldest would still be only 33. It's a cautionary tale for anyone who may be getting a little bit carried away with all these trophies!

The player, his club at that time, and his current status
Thanks to The Title for the info. Link to go in when they get on-line.

Gary Kelly (Newcastle) - Included in senior squad twice, spent last season at Oldham. Brother of senior International Alan (Sheffield United).
Tim Dalton (Coventry) - Had successful spell with Derry City. Now with Portadown in the Irish League.
Denis Irwin (Leeds) - Only member to make it to senior squad, and still playing at International level. The real stand-out success of the squad, Denis is in his 8th season with Man United.
Pat Kelch (Man United) - Released by United, Kelch came home to a successful League of Ireland career. Not currently playing.

Gary Mooney (Home Farm) - Soon dropped to junior football level. Now playing with Portmarnock.
Aaron Callaghan (Stoke City) - Long career in lower levels of English league. Now the youngest manager in the Irish League, with Crusaders.
Noel Bollard (Cherry Orchard) - Retired after spells with Home Farm and Waterford United. Now coaching schoolboy teams with Cherry Orchard.
Shay Purcell (Cherry Orchard) - Emigrated to the U.S.A., where he now works as a soccer coach.

Eamonn Collins (Southampton) - Captain of the '84 side, Collins played for a host of English sides before ending his career with Monaghan United. Now retired.
Martin Bayly (Wolves) - Long career playing for some top sides, including a spell in Spain. Now managing junior Dublin side CIE Ranch.
Derek Murray (Belvedere) - Two unsuccessful seasons at Man United, followed by stints with several Irish sides, ending up at Home Farm. Now retired.
Martin Russell (Man United) - Never quite made breakthrough, playing at every International level up to 'B'. Good spell in England followed by Portadown and this season St. Patrick's Athletic.

Mark Lynch (Rivermount) - A potential talent, but did not feature heavily in the tournament, and soon left football altogether.
David Archbold (Pearse Rovers) - Went to U.S.A. on scholarship shortly after the finals. Back in Ireland now, but not playing at a high level.
John Neal (Millwall) - Scored to give Ireland the lead in the semi-final. Dropped out of sight after '85 World Cup.
Tommy McDermott (Leeds) - Released by Leeds, and returned to play for Home Farm, Shamrock Rovers and Bray. Now with junior side Dublin Bus.
Brian Mooney (Home Farm) - Another who was capped at all higher levels except senior, spent time at Liverpool before returning to Shelbourne. Still an important part of the Bohemians set-up.

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