I wasn’t the only lucky one. The doors to the Ireland camp were always open in those days and everyone who could find it, hidden in a German woods, was invited to join the party, and hundreds did just that.
My abiding memory – aside from the four attempts to get the legendary Paul McGrath to go to bed – will be the scene at the piano in the resident’s bar, a venue struggling for size and fighting hard not to run out of beer after its own Irish invasion.
The late great Michael Carwood, a sports editor with the Sunday Press newspaper and a musician of some note, was in charge of the ivories.
Standing on top of the piano, literally, was Liam Brady, the greatest Irish player of his generation and a man denied his place on the Stuttgart stage by the cruelest of injuries after years of blood, sweat and tears in the green jersey.
Michael and Liam hadn’t spoken for years.
Communications had broken down over something one of them had written and the other one had read to be negative. I’ve been there myself and trust me, the arguments are never worth it.
That night they put their differences aside. Michael hit the keys and Liam hit the high notes. A room sang “who put the ball in the England net,” and every so often Ray Houghton would stick his head above the parapet of frenzy and sing “I did” to an instant hush.
Since then Kevin Sheedy and Niall Quinn and Tony Cascarino and David Kelly, on the night of shame that was the Lansdowne Road riots, have all put the ball in the England net, but nothing will ever beat our afternoon in a Stuttgart stadium and our morning after in a German hotel.
Some new Irish hero may have emerged at Wembley on Wednesday night. By the time you read this, we could be celebrating another great Irish win or lamenting another glorious defeat.
I’m not a fortune teller, sadly, so I can’t say what will happen either way.
But I can promise you one thing – the family trip to Wembley will be special either way.
And it will be a far cry from 1985 and the boat from Dun Laoghaire and the train to Euston Station and Sally O’Brien and the way she might look at you.
A far cry yes -- but just as enjoyable and certainly, just as important, in the story of life. Now come on you boys in Green.
PS: I hope Robbie Keane scored the winner on Wednesday night. He was abused by some this week for making the trip from America to lead his country at Wembley. The man can’t win!
(Cathal Dervan is sports editor of the Irish Sun newspaper in Dublin)
HERO OF THE WEEK
IT takes a truly great team and a truly great manager to take on the role of champions and live with it. Donegal did just that and so much more last Sunday when their coach Jimmy McGuinness masterminded a quite brilliant and fully deserved win over old rivals Tyrone in the opening round of the Ulster SFC. After relegation from the league, Jimmy will no doubt be relieved to be winning matches again, and he won’t be stupid enough to think the Sam Maguire is on the way back to Donegal just yet. But he will know, better than anyone, that Donegal stood up to the challenge of life as All-Ireland winners for the first time in Ballybofey and came through with flying colors. That will augur well for the summer ahead.
IDIOT OF THE WEEK
SERGIO Garcia could well have more money than sense, certainly judging by his stupid row with Tiger Woods in recent weeks and his pathetic “fried chicken” remark last week. The Spaniard did himself and the game of golf no favors at all with his silly remark about Tiger at last week’s European PGA dinner. Those who rule the game did their sport no favors by not punishing him for his stupidity.
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