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We've Got a Game to Win

John Kenny (RTÉ Sport) looks back to Euro '88 - to a time when the Republic of Ireland played in their first ever major football tournament - The entire country came to a standstill and celebrated like never before.

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4.1/5 (67 ratings)

Documentary Maker: John Kenny

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Documentary maker: Liam O'Brien

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We've Got a Game to Win

In 1988 the Republic of Ireland football squad qualified for their first major international championship.

Ireland looked as if they would not qualify from their group - back then only the top team in each qualifying group went through - but a late Gary McKay goal for Scotland against Bulgaria in Sofia in October 1987, meant that Ireland topped the group - as favourites Bulgaria failed to get a point in their last qualifying game.

For Jack Charlton, who had been appointed in early 1986, this was a momentous occassion - he had taken the Republic of Ireland squad to the 1988 UEFA European Championship finals in West Germany. Dreams were made of this.

In the finals in West Germany, Ireland beat England 1–0 in Stuttgart with a header from Ray Houghton, drew 1–1 with the Soviet Union in Hannover, with Ronnie Whelan the scorer, and lost to Holland 1–0 in Gelsenkirchen, coming within 8 minutes of a draw that would have meant a semi-final place.

Back home in Ireland, the nation had come together like never before. It was the biggest sporting experience the country had ever witnessed - and everyone shared in the delight and celebration.

'We've got a game to win' tells the story of the Euro 88 qualifying campaign - through to the finals - and the homecoming in front of hundreds and thousands of fans who lined the streets of Dublin to welcome home a team, that outside of beating the Old Enemy England, hadn’t actually won anything.

This documentary features the voices of Packie Bonner, Ronnie Whelan, Ray Houghton, RTÉ soccer commentator Gabriel Egan and of course manager Jack Charlton, plus the music of 1988.

Compiled and Narrated by John Kenny

Produced by Liam O'Brien

First broadcast June 4th 2012

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