by Karl Hofer.
Scotland v Republic of Ireland
Surprisingly, the Republic of Ireland have only played near neighbours Scotland on nine previous occasions.
The first match between the pair didn’t occur until the two countries were drawn in the same qualifying group for the 1962 World Cup. The Scots ran amok in both of those qualifiers, winning 4-1 at Hampden Park and 0-3 in the return at Dalymount Park, with the likes of Pat Crerand, Jim Baxter and Billy McNeill outplaying an Irish side built around former Manchester United midfielder and now RTE pundit Johnny Giles.
The next time Ireland and Scotland met in a competitive match was in the Euro 1988 qualifiers. The Irish, under the direction of new manager Jack Charlton, opened the campaign with a creditable away draw against Belgium. That good work was somewhat undone however when they played the Scots at Lansdowne Road in their next match and had to settle for a scoreless draw.
The next match in the qualifiers was the return tie against the Scots in Hampden Park – and it was a game the Irish could ill afford to lose if they were serious about reaching their first major tournament. Up until then the Irish had a reputation of being poor travelling away from home in competitive matches, but ‘Big Jack’ was quick to change that. He got the team back on track in the group with a one-nil victory in Glasgow, a sixth minute goal from Mark Lawrenson of Liverpool enough to secure the points.
Although usually a defender, Lawrenson was deployed in midfield by Charlton in an anchor role that allowed the stylish Liam Brady to dictate things in the middle of the park. With injuries to full-backs Jim Beglin and Chris Hughton he bolstered the defence by playing Paul McGrath at right-back to combat the skillful Davie Cooper and Ronnie Whelan at left-back to handle Gordon Strachan. Alongside centre-backs Kevin Moran and Mick McCarthy they put up a barrier that the Scots found too formidable to break down.
In the post-match press conference Charlton nursed a whisky and announced “the character in the team is there to be seen”. Goal-scorer Lawrenson said it could only be viewed as historic if Ireland went on to qualify.
Ireland’s victory in Hampden was the catalyst to their qualification campaign, one that did indeed end with a trip to the Euro ’88 Finals in Germany and some incredible memories. But it is to the Scots that the Irish were ultimately grateful, for without their intervention the Irish would once more be on the outside looking in.
Ireland had finished their campaign and had to wait nervously as Bulgaria took on Scotland in Sofia in the last match of the group. If Bulgaria drew or won it would mean they would go to the Euro ’88 finals and Ireland would suffer yet more heartbreak. Amazingly Scotland, with nothing to play for except pride, scored a late winner in a foggy Sofia courtesy of Hearts legend Gary Mackay who netted his only international goal.
Thanks to a Scotsman Ireland had qualified for it’s first major championship finals.
Scotland full-back Maurice Malpas recalls: “They said Jack Charlton sent Andy Roxburgh a case of champagne. If he did, I never saw a drop of it!”
Sadly Lawrenson, the match winner in Jack Charlton’s first competitive away victory, didn’t make it to Germany for Ireland’s first major tournament, missing out through injury. Later that year he had to quit the game with an achilles problem. You can see his winning goal in the below link;
Scotland v Republic of Ireland
European Championship Qualifier, 18th February 1987
Hampden Park, Att: 45,081
Paul McStay for Cooper (46)
Roy Aitken for McCoist (67)
Manager: Andy Roxburgh
REPUBLIC of IRELAND
John Byrne for Brady (60)
Manager: Jack Charlton
Goals: 0-1, Lawrenson (6)