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The history of Ireland v England


With just a few days to go until England’s visit to the Aviva Stadium it is only proper that we cast our eye over previous encounters with the old enemy. Since the formation of the Football Association of Ireland in 1921, Ireland have faced England just 15 times win a record of winning 2, drawing 8 and losing 5. And while that aggregation doesn’t make for great reading our contemporary record against the 3 Lions is impressive as you must go back to Wembley in March 1985 for our last defeat. Let’s hope that that 30-year unbeaten record stays intact following the outcome of game in Dublin this coming Sunday.

Ireland 0 – 1 England, 30th Sept 1946, Dalymount Park, Dublin [Friendly]

Johnny Carey - Ireland
Johnny Carey

Ireland first met England in Dalymount Park for a friendly in front of 32,000, in what was the first visit by a foreign team to Irish shores following World War II. Unfortunately, the Boys in Green were to lose to a 82nd minute goal from Preston North End’s Tom Finney which silenced the voracious home crowd. It was a commendable result however as England had thrashed Northern Ireland 7-2 a few days previously. Ireland performed well throughout, coming closest when a shot by Alex Stevenson hit the post, but were denied on several occasions by the outstanding England goalkeeper Frank Swift. The man of the match was Ireland’s Johnny Carey, the then captain of Manchester United.



England 0 – Ireland 2, 21st Sept 1949, Goodison Park, Liverpool [Friendly]

The next meeting of the sides came almost 3 years later and it would be truly historic occasion as Ireland became the first foreign team to beat England on home soil. Prior to the game a hack from the Daily Express named Henry Rose had written “anybody who thinks the Irish have any chance should make an appointment with a Harley Street psychiatrist”. It was clearly going to be Ireland’s day following that comment and so it happened that the 52,000 capacity crowd in Goodison were rocked by an Irish goal in each half. The Pathe newsreel of the day described the game as ‘a kick and rush hurley burley’ so it was no surprise that Ireland prevailed. The Irish team was again captained by Johnny Carey who had been just voted Footballer of the Year in England for 1949.

Con Martin scored Ireland’s first goal from the penalty spot in the 33rd minute after Peter Desmond was fouled. It was a somewhat fortuitous penalty as Martin’s shot only trickled over the line after the England keeper, Bert Williams, got a strong hand to it. Peter Farrell, the Evertonian who was playing in his home ground, would add to Ireland’s score in the 85th minute when his perfectly executed lob beat Williams and hit the English net. The result was an embarrassment for England, with the inventors of the beautiful game well beaten at home by little old Ireland.

England 5 – Ireland 1, 8th May 1957, Wembley Stadium, London [World Cup Qualifier]

Ireland’s first competitive game against England came in a World Cup qualifier for Sweden ‘58 and remains Ireland’s biggest defeat in this fixture. Tommy Taylor of Manchester United, who was to tragically die in the Munich air disaster less than 12 months later, scored a hat-trick while Fulham’s John Atyeo added the other two. Ireland’s sole consolation came from the head of Bristol city forward Dermot Curtis following an inspired Ireland move.

Ireland 1 – England 1, 19th May 1957, Dalymount Park [World Cup Qualifier]

Following that heavy defeat at Wembley, just 11 days earlier, the omens did not look good for Ireland as England visited Dalymount Park in Phibsborough. Things started very brightly for the home side with Alf Ringstead of Sheffield United putting Ireland ahead after just 3 minutes, sending the capacity crowd of 47,500 into raptures. Alas, it was not to be as a goal in injury time from the prolific John Atyeo denied Ireland what would have been a famous victory. To rub salt into the wounds the result also ensured England’s safe passage to the World Cup in Sweden. The commentary from Philip Greene on that day (listen below) will give you some idea of the emotions felt with the Irish crowd cruelly silenced, following several pre-emptive screams, when victory was so closely within their grasp.


Ireland 1 – England 3, 24th May 1964, Dalymount Park [Friendly]

24 May 1964; Republic of Ireland players, from right to left, Joe Haverty, Millwall, Paddy Ambrose, Shamrock Rovers, Willie Browne, Bohemians, Eddie Bailham, Shamrock Rovers, Tony Dunne, Manchester United, Johnny Giles, Leeds United, Andy McEvoy, Blackburn Rovers, Mick McGrath, Blackbrun Rovers, Fred Strahan, Shelbourne, Noel Dwyer, Swansea Town, and Noel Cantwell, Manchester United, captain, stand for the National Anthem before the game. International Friendly, Republic of Ireland v England, Dalymount Park, Dublin. Picture credit; Connolly Collection / SPORTSFILE
Ireland and England Teams, May 1964.        Picture credit; Connolly Collection / SPORTSFILE

7 years later Ireland were soundly beaten by an English team on the up, with the majority going on to win the World Cup just two years later. George Cohen, Bobby Charlton and Jimmy Greaves played that day with Greaves adding the third and final English goal. Ireland’s score came courtesy of Freddie Strahan who was playing for Dublin club Shelbourne at the time. Ireland included lots of talent in their line-up with Johnny Giles and Noel Cantwell forming the spine of an impressive team that still proved no match for a rampant England side.

 England 1 – Ireland 1, 8th Sept 1976, Wembley [Friendly]

It would be a dozen years before Ireland and England would meet again and though it was a friendly (friendlies had a lot more bite back in those pre-Premiership days) Wembley was a cauldron of noise. Ireland did what Ireland always do well at doing by coming back from one-nil down to record a moral victory. England’s goal came just before half-time and was brilliantly engineered by Kevin Keegan, whose cross was headed to the net by Stuart Pearson. On this occasion Ireland’s salvation came in the shape of a Gerry Daly penalty on 57 minutes, which followed a foul on Steve Heighway after his powerful mazy dribble through the heart of the English defence. In an end-to-end contest Ireland were unlucky not to record a victory when Don Givens weak shot dribbled wide with the English goal at his mercy.

Ireland 1 – England 1, 25th Oct 1978, Lansdowne Road [European Championships Qualifier]

The qualifying campaign for Euro ’80 was a particularly disastrous one for Ireland and led to Johnny Giles vacating the Irish managerial post after his team finished behind both England and Northern Ireland in the group. Though there was only 2 points for a win back then, Ireland still only managed to pick up 7 points from 8 games. Our first meeting with England during these qualifiers came in Dublin in front of 48,000, with the resultant draw being the only point that England dropped during the campaign. Ireland scored thanks to a Gerry Daly effort after having fallen behind to a Bob Latchford goal in the 7th minute.

England 2 – Ireland 0, 6th Feb 1980, Wembley [European Championships Qualifier]

Kevin Keegan was in his pomp when he notched up a goal in each half to sink Ireland at Wembley to effectively end our hopes of qualifying for Italy ‘80 that summer. The over 90,000 in attendance witnessed an Irish team built around a solid defence of Mark Lawrenson, David O’Leary and Chris Hughton crumple under the gifts of the diminutive Keegan. But better days would lay ahead for this Irish team, which also had Liam Brady and Frank Stapleton in its ranks on the Wembley turf that day.

England 2 – Ireland 1, 26th Mar 1985, Wembley [Friendly]

By 1985 a strong Irish team was emerging with Eoin Hand at the helm, but results against the auld enemy remained disappointing. Packie Bonner and Paul McGrath had broken into the team by early 1985 but neither was able to stop Gary Lineker’s deft chip, which marked his debut goal for England. At this stage Ireland were already behind to a Gary Steven goal so Liam Brady’s reply towards the end only proved to be a consolation. Thankfully this game has proven to be the last time we’ve lost to England.

Ireland 1 – England 0, 12th June 1988, Neckarstadion, Stuttgart [Euro ’88]

This is probably Ireland’s most memorable win over the old enemy when in our first match ever at a major tournament, Euro ’88 in Germany, we upset the odds thanks to a rare headed goal by Ray Houghton. I recorded the game on VHS tape, watched it dozens of time and still don’t know how Gary Lineker failed to score that day. That said the Irish defence, with Packie Bonner behind them, was magnificent. Houghton’s goal was a mix of brilliance and farce as Kenny Samson booted an attempted clearance catastrophically skywards, when it finally reached Earth John Aldridge headed it on before Houghton directed his header in the only part of the goal that the impregnable Peter Shilton was helpless to defend. Joxer and several million other Irishmen joined in on the celebration, despite some of us having to start the Leaving Cert the following day.

Ireland 1 – England 1, 11th June 1990, Stadio Sant’Elia, Cagliari [Italia ’90]

On a night when it pissed down on the normally bone dry soil of Cagliari in Sardinia, Ireland fashioned a result against the old enemy in one of the worst games at Italia ’90. For most of us however it was yet another example of the unquenchable drive of the Boys in Green to never give up on a seemingly lost cause. Every frame of that 73th minute Irish goal by Kevin Sheedy is the stuff of legend at this stage, from Packie Bonner’s angry grimace to Sheedy’s steal from Steve McMahon and his subsequent thunderbolt to the back of the English net. Gary Linekar’s earlier goal was slapstick on a football pitch but let’s not focus too much on that unpleasantness.

Ireland 1 – England 1, 14th Nov 1990, Lansdowne Road [European Championships Qualifier]

5 years before the blight of hooliganism would reach our shores there was an equally tense Euro ’92 qualifier in Dublin between the neighbourly rivals. This time the away support was tucked away on the terraces, a good distance from main Irish support but that didn’t stop a volley of coins from heading our way. On the field Ireland left it late to snatch a draw after David Platt’s 67th minute goal had put England ahead. Ireland’s equaliser came from the head of Tony Cascarino in the 80th minute, a beautiful judged goal that took its time to arc magnificently over Chris Woods. The celebrations were dramatic and included impassioned cries of ‘you’ll never beat the Irish’, which actually had a ring of truth about it back then.

England 1 – Ireland 1, 27th Mar 1991, Wembley [European Championships Qualifier]

This was a truly special night for Ireland, when Jack Charlton’s men did everything except come away with a win from the lion’s den. The Irish goal proved beyond doubt that Niall Quinn was much more than a totem pole to aim for, as his deft touch left the ball with no option but to beat the English keeper all ends up. England had opened the scoring from the unlikeliest of sources as Arsenal’s Lee Dixon scored his only international goal in the 7th minute, via Steve Staunton’s outstretched peg it must be said. From that moment forward however Ireland played with panache and guile in what was surely Ireland’s easiest-on-the-eye performance under Charlton, apart from the Euro ’88 game versus Russia.

Ireland 1 – England 0, 15th Feb 1995, Lansdowne Road [Friendly]

Although Ireland scored more goals than England, thanks to David Kelly’s sublime finish, we never reached the end of this ill-fated game due to the most shameful night ever witnessed on an Irish sportsfield. While the thugs that caused the mayhem can take a lot of the blame, it seems incomprehensible that they were housed in the upper tiers above the Irish support in a most rickety of old stadiums. The game was ultimately called off after only 27 minutes and as such is classified in the record books as a nil-all draw.

 England 1 – England 1, 29th May 2013, Wembley [Friendly]

The most recent meeting of Ireland and England resulted in another one-all draw, which takes it to seven the number of occasions that the two have ended up on this scoreline. This friendly came a full 18 years after the events in 1995, which made it all the more surprising that it turned out to be a languid enough affair. That said the London night sky was lit up when Shane Long’s wonderful headed flick, from a Seamus Coleman cross, opened the scoring. Frank Lampard dampened proceedings from an Irish point of view by replying soon afterwards, but it was Ireland who took the most crumbs of comfort from the result that evening.

  •  Author: Kevin Dunphy
Published inblogfeature

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