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'By 2002, we were really ready for the row!' | Paul Rouse on Italia 90 legacy

It has been said that Ireland's success at 'Italia '90' caused an explosion of enthusiasm for Iri...


'By 2002, we were really ready for the row!' | Paul Rouse on Italia 90 legacy

It has been said that Ireland's success at 'Italia '90' caused an explosion of enthusiasm for Irish football outside of its traditional working-class support base.

This idea is not entirely correct, according to Paul Rouse, a professor of history at UCD.

Rouse joined OTB AM on Tuesday morning to discuss the impact of the Charlton years on Ireland.

There is a perception that the success of Charlton's team at 'Italia '90' that summer led to a decade of positivity around the sport.

Rouse admitted the sport had been dominated by the working-class in cities like Dublin, however, it was not exclusively the preserve of the working-class and was enjoyed by different social groups before 'Italia '90'.

There were peaks and valleys in terms of success on the field, and the support off of it.

The scenes around the country following 'Italia'90' have been highlighted in the days since Charlton's passing.

When the World Cup in the United States took place four years later, the enthusiasm had dimmed slightly.

"The 1994 World Cup was a pale imitation of that experience even though Ireland actually went and won a match on the field of play, beating Italy," said Rouse.

"By the time the team had departed [from that tournament] the national mood had shifted a little."

In the ensuing years, the team failed to qualify for the European Championships in 1996 and the World Cup in 1998. This contributed to the downturn in optimism around Ireland's ability to compete.

The wonderful joy of qualifying for a World Cup had all but evaporated by 2002.

"By 2002, we were really ready for the row, it was like we'd kind of got bored of this thing of actually making it to a competition and competing to a decent level in that competition," he said.

"So now we needed something to throw a little bit more salt into the pot."

That salt would come in the form of the well-documented bust-up between Roy Keane and then-manager Mick McCarthy.

It cannot be denied that Charlton's teams set the bar for those that followed.

There had been several missed opportunities to qualify for World Cups in Irish football history, in particular in 1982. This made the achievement in 1990 special.

"This was finally qualification for a World Cup and that in itself was a huge statement."

The success at 'Italia '90' also placed football at the forefront of Irish newspapers.

"It put soccer on the front pages," he acknowledged.

Packie Bonner

There is some truth to the idea that the Charlton years changed many things about Ireland in cultural terms.

Rouse feels there needs to be a further evaluation of this subject to gain a greater sense as to the full extent of said change.

It isn't as simple as it is being portrayed, according to Rouse.

The game certainly grew outwards in the 1990s but there were a number of contributing factors to this growth, like the improvement in leisure facilities, and the development of five-a-side pitches.

The theory of "here's a ball there you go there's your sociological study of how soccer transformed Ireland and how soccer was transformed by Ireland and it just doesn't hold water," he said.

One area of the game that did not improve and continues to lag behind is the national league.

The League of Ireland did not benefit long-term from the broader interest in football in this country after 1990. Much of that is down to the Football Association of Ireland being unfit for purpose, according to Rouse.

On that front, he said that institutional change takes some time to implement, and he is interested in seeing how the FAI looks in three years time.

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1994 World Cup FAI GAA History Of Irish Sport Ireland Italia 90 Jack Charlton Paul Rouse