The Irish Managers Who made It

Jimmy Purdy

With the appointment of Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane as manager and assistant manager of the Irish republic soccer team I want to remind readers of NewsFour of previous successful Irish managers of Irish republic soccer teams who won European Championships.

Brian Kerr and Noel O’Reilly are the managers who brought the first Irish team to a European soccer final, the under 16s. They met Italy at the city of Perth in Scotland in 1998. In qualifying, Ireland conceded no goals while Italy scored 11 goals. On the way to the final Italy defeated Spain who before that were the favourites to win. The game between Ireland and Italy turned out to be a thriller with some excellent football played by both teams. At 35 minutes Ireland got a free kick and Keith Foy with a lovely kick planted it in the net. Keith went on to play professional football in England, before returning to play with Irish teams. This under 16s team played very well in the first half and managed to hold on to their one goal lead.

The second half started with Ireland still playing well and playing far superior soccer of the two teams but 11 minutes into the second half the Italians equalised. Both teams were going for a second goal which came at 51 minutes and it was Ireland who got it, to go two-one up. Both teams played hard with Ireland holding on until the end and winning.

11 weeks later Brian Kerr and Noel O’Reilly brought the under 18s to Larnaca in Cypress to play against Germany in the European soccer final. Having defeated Italy at under sixteen level hopes were high for this team to make it a double for Irish soccer. The heat in the new G.S.Z Stadium was 40 degrees. That in itself was a test for both teams. In an interview before the game Noel O’Reilly spoke of the stadium and the atmosphere and how they prepared for the game, they arrived two days early and the team trained indoors away from the heat. As Noel said it’s a magnificent holiday resort but they didn’t resort to the holiday part.

The first half was evenly matched with both teams coming close to scoring. The bigger and more physical Germans were not making any progress against the smaller Irish boys who were playing some ground football; both sets of supporters were making a lot of noise in support of their team, half time arrived with the teams equal at nil all.

During the second half a good move down the centre saw Robbie Keane slip a pass to Alan Quinn to score a goal. With only 10 seconds of the three extra minutes to be played the Germans equalised, as the golden goal rule was in place during extra time both teams were going to be very cautious and the match finished without any goals, so to the penalty shoot-out. Ireland won on the penalty shoot-outs at four to three, winning the second European championship in 11 weeks.

This was a great achievement for Brian Kerr and Noel O’Reilly. To the two Irish managers of the Irish team good luck for the future.

I wish to thank Nicola and Stephen at FAI Headquarters in Abbotstown for the help and kindness when I visited them looking for information on the U16’s results.

Above, left to right: Liam George, Noel O’Reilly and Brian Kerr.
Image courtesy Back Page Football.

By Jimmy Purdy