"Let's go down the pub," is probably not what my father said to his 11-year-old son on the evening of 1 July, 1990, but it's where we ended up. 

The bar in The Beach Hotel in Mullaghmore was to be our ultimate destination, with technical difficulties ruling out a home (sort of) viewing of the quarter-final clash between Cameroon and England on our ancient black and white portable television. 

The World Cup was taking place in an Italian summer, but a trip to our mobile home in Sligo meant that most of the latter stages would be endured, rather than enjoyed, through flurries of snow on an abomination that probably hailed from somewhere in the Eastern Bloc.

Ireland's run to the quarter-finals had been watched at home in Monaghan - I’d insisted on that - but the elimination at the hands of the hosts meant that a reliable television reception was no longer the most important thing in my life. It was time to pack up the car and leave the next morning. 

This was the first World Cup I could really appreciate and is the one I still remember best. 

I’ve vivid memories of Dennis Taylor’s black ball victory at the Crucible and Barry McGuigan’s pummelling of Eusebio Pedroza at Loftus Road in 1985, but the World Cup in Mexico a year later is a blur, aside from snatches of memories of Diego Maradona. 

My adoration culminated in customising my skimpy velour shorts with a handpainted number 10 and the Argentinian Sun of May. There may not have been summer football camps in Monaghan in the 1980s, but I had ensured, unknowingly, that there was football camp. 

Four years on, the ingenu of 1986 had thought he had become a more knowledgeable, streetwise fan, who would squirm at his mother’s embarrassing recollections of that earlier sartorial blunder.  

Emotional maelstroms aren’t meant for 11-year-olds, but I was still oscillating between the joy of Genoa and ruminating on the Roman tragedy that had befallen Ireland less than 24 hours earlier as we made the sombre trip to the then-ramshackle Mermaids Cove Caravan Park. 

However, things were looking up with the chance to watch the last quarter-final encounter in the presence of adults with alcohol on board. 

I hadn't spent much time in pubs, but I knew I liked them, and there was an increased chance of getting what I once would have described as 'night chips’ afterwards. By 1990 I’d come to view the term as twee, if not night chips themselves, which remained and remain the best type of chips. 

As I arrived at the Beach Hotel to drown my sorrows, I knew I’d have to keep my allegiances to myself. I’d be the only one in the bar hoping to see England qualify for the semi-finals. 

My ideal scenario plotted an England course all the way to a final against Maradona’s Argentina, just to see what new torture the little magician could inflict on Bobby Robson's men for a second time in four years after the Hand of God at the Azteca. That came with its own risks. Nursing an ankle injury meant his influence was diminished at the tournament. So I wouldn’t have exactly shed a tear at an earlier England exit. 

But this was a night to savour. I’d never taken in a match in a pub before. You never forget your first time - and I didn’t. 

David Platt’s header gave England a 25th-minute lead many would have predicted, but there was an unexpected response. Amid the groans and the cursing, there came a cheer and a burst of applause from a dark recess of the bar. 

The men on the high chairs swivelled in unison, like something out of a Spaghetti Western. The strangers who had ridden into town were clearly not from round these here parts. 

The locals advised what turned out to be an elderly English couple to curb their enthusiasm for the Three Lions. 

Louis Mountbatten’s assassination took place 11 years earlier, when his fishing boat was blown up just off the coast of Mullaghmore. 

As the Troubles still raged, anti-English sentiment across the country was still palpable. Wishing misfortune on the England team was an accessible and relatively benign manifestation of that disdain. 

Cameroon conspired to miss a host of chances before the interval as they searched for an equaliser, but the introduction of talismanic forward Roger Milla after the break meant that the game was far from up for Valery Nepomnyashchy’s men. 

Milla’s impact was almost immediate. 

Paul Gascoigne’s clumsy challenge on the 38-year-old won a penalty which Emmanuel Kunde calmly slotted away in the 61st minute. 

The eruption in The Beach Hotel may not have been heard in Naples, but it felt like it could have been. 

Taunts were exchanged between the locals and the increasingly uncomfortable tourists. As my coke kicked in, I was voyeuristically following the deteriorating international relations just as much as the football.

I’d seen fights in pubs in pubs before, but only in the Queen Vic and in the Rovers Return, never in real life. I was spellbound. 

Cameroon took the lead just four minutes later when Milla provided the assist for Eugene Ekeke to dink the ball over the advancing Peter Shilton. 

The goal seemed to spark a ceasefire to hostilities in the hostelry. The game took over and we were all transfixed. 

Gary Lineker won and converted a penalty in the 83rd minute after being caught by Kunde’s stray leg, earning his team extra-time. 

Cameroon could and should have been out of sight, but the 1986 Golden Boot winner again punished the African side from the spot after he went down under a challenge from Thomas N’Kono towards the end of the opening period of extra-time. The goal was to prove decisive as England progressed as 3-2 winners. 

One final bad-tempered exchange with the English interlopers didn’t seem to dampen their spirits as they left the pub. He who laughs last, laughs loudest, at least on that night. 

However, the downcast patrons propping up the bar didn't have to wait long to revel in English agony, with Stuart Pearce, Chris Waddle and four efficient West Germany penalty takers ending England hopes of a first World Cup success since 1966 at the semi-final stage and creating an obsession with shootouts that would last for decades. 

Any misplaced antipathy I had towards the England national side would dissipate over time and be replaced by indifference. 

The one surprise about that particular Italia '90 team is the degree of positive revisionism that they benefitted from. But maybe it's not surprising at all. 

The lens we view flashbulb memories through becomes pretty opaque with the passage of time. Many of the ‘details’ we recount can’t be trusted.

In many ways, a World Cup that we reminisce on with such affection wasn’t just bad, it was truly awful. 

On the field of play, the beautiful game was anything but. The back pass and the two points for a win format didn’t help matters. Goals didn’t light up dour affairs at a rate that one would expect either - an average of 2.2 goals per game remains an all-time low for the tournament. 

And it wasn’t just Gary Lineker defecating on the pitch in the group game against Ireland which made this a dirty World Cup - red card records were set in the final and throughout the tournament. Benjamin Massing’s horror challenge on Claudio Caniggia in the opener set the tone for the tournament, with the tackle so cartoonishly bad that it could have been accompanied by a puff of smoke. 

My own memories of that night in The Beach Hotel are probably suspect 30 years on. A barroom brawl was a long way off and it’s likely the coffin-dodging couple weren’t a day over 50. But everyone seems old when you’re 11.