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The day a united Ireland took on soccer’s best

Des MacHale is right (Letters, Nov 18). A single team could represent Ireland North and South in soccer.

It should be possible in this modern era of cross-border co-operation. After all, Ireland fields only one international rugby team. They cope very well with the vexed question of anthems.

There is a famous precedent. At the height of the Troubles in 1973, a team from both jurisdictions played a friendly game against Brazil in Lansdowne Road. For ideological reasons, they lined out as ‘Shamrock Rovers Ireland XI’.

Johnny Giles was the captain. He was technically excellent. Liam Tuohy was the manager. The Irish goals came from Mick Martin, Terry Conroy and Derek Dougan. The great Pat Jennings saved a penalty. Martin O’Neill (from Northern Ireland) played at midfield. He is now the manager of the Republic of Ireland. Cork’s own Miah Dennehy came on as a late sub.

Jairzinho and Rivelino were two of the legends who played for the visitors. The scorers for Brazil were Lima (2), Jairzinho (1) and Valdomiro (1).

The game could have gone either way. For the record, Brazil won 4-3 on the day. They had won their third World Cup in 1970. That showed how well Irishmen could co-operate to play against the best in the world. Football, sportsmanship, tolerance and respect were the real winners.

Michael Mernagh
Co Cork


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