Ireland´s Italia 90 Squad – Part Two

    In part two of the Irish World Cup squad at Italia 90, we look at players who partook in an important period in Irish football, but maybe were not regulars in the starting eleven that summer in Italy. That doesn’t mean that their contributions were not important, as we remember the scorer of the winning penalty against Romania, a former Irish captain, and a young striker who scored 21 goals for his country, yet was nominated as a third choice goalkeeper by Jackie Charlton. 


David O’Leary – Stoke Newington, London, England – Arsenal


     Most famous in Irish folklore for scoring the winning penalty against Romania, O’Leary was the player probably most affected by Charlton’s style of football in the Ireland set-up. The stylish Arsenal defender was actually frozen out of the national team from Charlton’s first two years of management and only re-entered the international scene after reconciling with Charlton after Euro 88.

     London born and Dublin raised, O’Leary would score only one goal from his 68 international caps, the first of which came as a teenager in 1976. After Italia 90, O’Leary played two and a half more years at Arsenal before a late career switch to Leeds Utd. Notable management stints at Leeds and Aston Villa would happen after O’Leary’s playing career came to an end. Now, O’Leary is a club ambassador at Arsenal.


Andy Townsend – Maidstone, Kent, England – Norwich City


     The likeable, central midfielder made himself a key figure in the Irish team very quickly under Jackie Charlton. Townsend made his international debut in 1989, and would go on to play in every Irish match in Italia 90, scoring in the penalty shootout in Romania in the process. Furthermore, Townsend would go on to captain the 1994 World Cup squad in the USA before finishing with a collection of 70 Irish caps. 

     Townsend’s career was on the rise in the summer of 1990, where he would transfer from Norwich City to Chelsea for £1.2 million. Three years later, Townsend again transferred to Aston Villa for another impressive price fee of £2.1 million. Not bad for a footballer who began his career at Welling Utd who played in the now defunct Athenian League. 

     Qualifying to play for Ireland because of his Castleisland, Co. Kerry born paternal grandmother, Brigid Browne, Townsend would go on to be a popular player for Ireland, entering the FAI Hall of Fame in 2015. After football, Townsend’s voice would become very recognisable as a co-commentator on ITV and BT Sports.


Chris Hughton – Forest Gate, Essex, England – Tottenham Hotspur


     A very important figure in Irish football, Hughton created history by becoming the first mixed race person to play for Ireland in 1979. The son of a Limerick mother and a Ghanaian father Hughton made his debut against the USA in a 3-2 win in what turned out to be Irish great Johnny Giles’ last match as manager. 

     The long time Tottenham servant was 32 in 1990 and at the tail end of his career. Hughton played in every game in Euro 88, but had lost his starting place to the young and up and coming Steve Staunton when Italia 90 arrived. Hughton would retire from international football a year later with 53 caps to his name.

     After playing, Hughton is currently in a very successful coaching and management career, having been in charge of several Premier League clubs and considered a future Irish manager. Hughton however, has been seen as a victim of several unfair sackings by clubs such as Newcastle Utd and Brighton and Hove Albion. Assistant manager of the Irish team under Brian Kerr also, it remains to be seen whether Hughton will be back at Lansdowne Road/Aviva Stadium any time soon. 


Bernie Slaven – Paisley, East Renfrewshire, Scotland – Middlesbrough 


     A Teeside legend, the lively forward is best known for his seven years at Middlesbrough, of which it was the same time period that Slaven would win his seven caps for Ireland. Slaven has said in the past that he “gatecrashed” the Irish squad in Italia 90. 

     Qualifying for Ireland due to his Donegal born grandfather, Slaven only made his international debut in March 1990, a couple of months before the World Cup began, but obviously impressed Charlton enough to be in the final squad. Slaven is probably best remembered in Italia 90, for being next to Pope John Paul II in a staged photo when the Irish team were in Rome. 

     Slaven would only play three more matches for Ireland after Italia 90, winning the last of his caps in 1993. He would go on to become a popular media and radio personality in Middlesbrough and is currently a patron for Sporting Memories charity, which supports former players and older football fans living with dementia or dealing with loneliness. 


John Sheridan – Stretford, Greater Manchester, England – Sheffield Wednesday 


      The Mancunian midfielder would go on to become an important player for the Irish team, but at Italia 90, he only played the last 12 minutes of the Quarter Final, when chasing an equaliser against Italy.  

      Sheridan won 34 caps for Ireland, and also travelled to Euro 88, where he wouldn’t play a game however Sheridan would go on to start every game for Ireland in the 1994 World Cup. 

     Making his name as a footballer at Sheffield Wednesday and Oldham Athletic, Sheridan would later become a lower league career manager, including an amazing five spells in charge of Oldham. As of July 2020, Sheridan has just been named as the new manager of League of Ireland Premier Division club, Waterford Utd. 


Niall Quinn – Dublin – Arsenal


     A much loved Irish striker, and a national goalscoring record holder until Robbie Keane came along, Quinn was actually nominated as the third choice goalkeeper at Italia 90 in one of the oddities of Charlton’s decision making. 

     Quinn scored the bungled equaliser against the Dutch in the group stages which helped Ireland to qualify for the knockout stages in the tournament. The Arsenal front man, who was best known for his height and aerial ability would also have successful spells in Manchester City and Sunderland. 

     Winning a tremendous 92 caps for Ireland, Quinn unfortunately missed the 1994 World Cup through injury, but would play in the 2002 World Cup. Irish fans will always remember Quinn’s headed flick-on for Robbie Keane to equalise against the Germans. 

    After football, Quinn would enter the world of business, most notably heading a consortium and becoming chairman of Sunderland during a successful time for the club. These days, Quinn is a chairman of an Irish broadband company, and an unpaid Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the FAI.


Frank Stapleton – Dublin – Blackburn Rovers


     Captain of the Euro 88 squad, Stapleton was one of the more experienced players in Italia 90 for Ireland however Stapleton was on the fringes of the squad for the World Cup and would retire from international football after the tournament. 

     Stapleton’s career is best remembered for his time at Arsenal and Manchester Utd where he would win three FA Cups in total. As of 1990, Stapleton’s career was winding down at Blackburn Rovers before three years at Bradford City where he was player-manager.  

     The international career for Stapleton was very impressive, scoring 20 goals in 71 games during his 14 years playing for Ireland. So determined to play for his country, the North Dublin man insisted that a “release clause” would always be inserted into his club contracts whenever Ireland called. 

      After retirement, Stapleton had a very brief coaching career and is now more likely to appear on the After-Dinner Speech circuits. 


David Kelly – Birmingham, England – Leicester City


     A superb striker at lower levels, Kelly is a legend at Walsall for his goalscoring exploits and would later go on to play for West Ham Utd, Leicester City, Newcastle Utd, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Sunderland and Tranmere Rovers amongst other teams. 

     Although unused in Italia 90, Kelly was also a part of the Euro 88 and 1994 World Cup squads. Kelly qualified for Ireland due to his Dublin born father and scored a hat trick on his international debut in 1987. After football, Kelly would have several backroom coaching jobs and is currently a Youth Development Coach at Northampton Town. 


John Byrne – Manchester, England – Le Havre


     A very talented forward, Byrne is viewed as a hero at York City and Queens Park Rangers where he was known for putting the ball in the back of the net, and at the time of Italia 90, Byrne had just finished a two-year spell in France for Le Havre. Byrne wasn’t as great a goalscorer for Ireland, only scoring four goals in 23 games for Ireland. Byrne made his international debut for Ireland in 1985 and would win his last cap eight years later in 1993.

     Once Byrne’s football life ended, Byrne made a dramatic career change and earned a degree in Podiatry and currently works for the Sussex Community NHS Trust as a Specialist Musculoskeletal Podiatrist. 


Alan McLoughlin – Manchester, England – Swindon Town


     At the time of Italia 90, McLoughlin was the least experienced member of the squad with only one cap to his name but McLoughlin played as a substitute against England and Egypt in the World Cup. 

     McLoughlin’s international career would last throughout the nineties and would win 42 caps in total. The Mancunian’s most famous moment in an Irish jersey was scoring the equaliser in the boiling pan of Windsor Park, Belfast which confirmed qualification for the 1994 World Cup.

     At club level, McLoughlin is known most for his time at Swindon Town and Portsmouth and has coached both teams at the backroom level. Currently, the tough midfielder is the manager of the Swindon Town Academy. 


Gerry Peyton – Birmingham, England – Bournemouth


     Although the goalkeeping understudy for Packie Bonner at Euro 88 and Italia 90, the long time Fulham and Bournemouth goalkeeper was good enough to win 33 caps for Ireland, from 1977 until 1992. 

      Peyton would play over 600 matches in his long career, and has taken his own path as a goalkeeping coach after his playing retirement. Peyton has coached in Japan, Sweden and in the Premier League for Fulham and Arsenal and is currently assistant manager in India for Odisha in the recently formed Indian Super League.


For part one of the analysis of Ireland´s Italia 90 squad, press the link here.


Who were the men of “Jackie’s Army”? Ireland’s Italia 90 Squad – Part 1

Diarmuid Sherry
Diarmuid Sherry

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