The debate begins this week and will rage until the Christmas lights go up and the cold snaps in.

The first episode of RTÉ's Ireland's Greatest Sporting Moment programme airs on Thursday as the panel of  Eamon Dunphy, Joe Brolly, Sonia O’Sullivan ponder the 1980s' standout achievement.

The 60/70s, 90s and 2000s will be reviewed and the experts will select the top 5 moments from each decade before a final decision on each decade’s top moment, and ultimately this country's greatest sporting moment, will be determined by a live social media and text vote from viewers at home on 7 December.

Here, RTÉ soccer analyst Dunphy reflects on the summer of 1990, when the Republic of Ireland went to Italy and made memories to last a lifetime [from 1 min and 46 secs].

"There's something else you have to be aware of: does this moment gauge the whole nation? Not just people who follow the sport, but people who have little interest in sport and people who may even be hostile to sport," he says.

"There are moments, I think, that are in that category. For example, when Ireland beat Romania in 1990 on penalties and George Hamilton made that memorable observation, 'a nation holds its breath'... a nation was holding its breath!

"Packie Bonner made the save and David O'Leary scored a fantastic penalty with real conviction.

"There was a shot from Dublin Castle where there was a European summit, and John Healy, the great political journalist from the Irish Times, burst into tears of emotion. Now John Healy was not a soccer fan - anything but. But it got to him.

"That was a moment that I will never forget."

Watch Ireland’s Greatest Sporting Moment live on RTÉ 2 on Thursday at 9.30pm