"When you score at a World Cup you’re forever remembered.” So said Ray Houghton today as he reflected on the impact of his goal which gave Ireland a famous victory over Italy in Giants Stadium at the US ’94 World Cup.
"Wayne Rooney was asked about his first memories of a World Cup and he said Ireland in 1994,” Houghton noted. “Neither England, Scotland, Wales, nor Northern Ireland were there so we were the only country representing this part of the world.
"When you look back, there’s not been that many who have scored at a World Cup, it’s a precious thing to do, it’s a great memory to have. You’re in an elite club when it comes to professional footballers."
Recalling his celebrated looping strike, Houghton says: "I remember thinking to myself, 'just hit it, why not? If it goes over the bar, who cares? If it goes wide of the goal, it’s not a problem'.
"As I hit it, my first emotion was 'it's going over'. The second emotion was 'the keeper is going to save it', then when it hit the back of the net I was off and running."
The Irish legend also paid tribute to Paul McGrath for his commanding performance on the day.
Speaking to FAI TV, Houghton said: "Paul McGrath had one of his best games ever in an Ireland shirt and Paul shouldn’t have played. He had a problem with his shoulder and I would say 99.9 per cent of people wouldn’t have played but Paul was one of the very few who went out there and played with it.
"He was magnificent. Even Franco Baresi, one of the best centre-backs ever, turned around and said that was one the best centre-back performances he’d ever seen. When you get someone like that saying how well you’ve played you know you’ve done well."
Houghton was speaking on the eve of Jack Charlton’s 85th birthday which the FAI will mark tomorrow, Friday, May 8, with a full day of tributes from Irish players and fans. People are being encouraged to share their favourite memories of the Charlton years using the hashtag #HappyBirthdayJack.