League of Ireland on tour – Ticker Tape and Argentinian Steak (Advent Sportscast Day 24)

Tue, Dec 24 2019

El Monumental - venue for the 1978 World Cup final and the Argentina v League of Ireland XI game in 1980 Credit: Photo by LucasVphotos on Unsplash

There were some memorable foreign tours for Irish football sides in the 1980s whose stories have been retold this year.

RTÉ TV recently aired Kevin Brannigan’s excellent documentary ‘In League with Gaddafi’ about the League of Ireland selection from Bohs and St. Pat’s who travelled to take on the Libyan national team in 1989. 

‘Cigarettes and Samba’ is an RTÉ Radio Documentary on One on the infamous FAI tour to South America in 1982 set amongst the backdrop of the Falklands War. The Irish squad, cobbled together by manager Eoin Hand from players whose club managers allowed them to go, travelled through Argentina en-route to a game against Brazil.

A number of the Irish players were travelling on British passports which caused some difficulties. The game against a Brazilian team with Zico, Socrates and Falcao ended in a 6-0 win for the Seleção.

Two years previously a League of Ireland selection travelled to play a series of games in Argentina. The highlight was a match against the then reigning World Champions, an Argentinian team that included a 19-year-old Diego Maradona who unsurprisingly shone on the night and scored the only goal of the game.

On the latest extratime.ie Advent Calendar podcast Declan Marron talks with Macdara Ferris who wrote about that tour in the latest issue of Póg Mo Goal magazine. You can listen to the lads talk about the tour through any of the links below:

For the article Macdara spoke with Liam Buckley and Terry Eviston who were both part of the LOI team who help make TV history against Argentina – it was the first match highlights shown in colour TV in the country.

“It doesn’t get any bigger than playing the world champions,” said current Sligo Rovers manager Liam Buckley about lining out for the LOI XI in River Plate’s 75,000 capacity Monumental Stadium - the Buenos Aires venue had hosted the World Cup final just two years previously. 

“It was a full house and the place was jammers. There was all the ticker tape stuff – it was exactly like I’d seen on the TV for the 1978 World Cup final and all of a sudden we were there playing in that stadium. It was one of the most moving moments of my career to hear our national anthem through all that noise before kick-off. It was a bunch of us lads from our league playing their national team. It was a very proud moment for all of us.” 

Footage of Maradona’s master show is a bit grainy but you can look back at the three minutes of highlights from the game here with the winning goal 50 seconds in:

The League of Ireland selection team went on to play games in Rosario against Newell’s Old Boys and Rosario Central and in Patagonia against Club Cipolletti. Eviston described the game against Cipolletti as “a dogfight. It was South American football at its roughest and dirtiest!”

Getting an LOI selection together doesn’t appear to be feasible these days but Buckley remembers those matches fondly. 

“I’d love to see that resurrected purely from a players’ point of view,” said Buckley about those away tours. “Those representative games are some of the proudest moments from my career.”

You can read the full article in Póg Mo Goal magazine here: