IT IS one of the most iconic images in Irish sporting history and Packie Bonner believes that it was the catalyst for an unprecedented period in Irish soccer.
Six minutes into their first ever game in a major tournament, they produced one of their most famous moments.
It was in the Neckarstadion in Stuttgart at Euro ’88. Tony Galvin’s cross, Kenny Samson’s misguided header, John Aldridge’s header to Ray Houghton. Time stood still.
Bonner was the Irish goalkeeper that day and made several vital stops to keep Gary Lineker, Peter Beardsley, John Barnes and Bryan Robson at bay.
“1988 was magnificent,” said Bonner, who was in Letterkenny and Dungloe today for book signings of his new autobiography, The Last Line.
That moment, the Burtonport man believes, was the spur for that age of memories under Jack Charlton with the team also making the finals of Italia ’90 and USA ’94.
“We were in with the big boys for the first time. When you’re there, in it and the national anthem going up, there’s a bit of pride in you. It gives you huge motivation.
“Beating England was the start of it. If we’d lost that first game, I don’t think we’d have been successful. That gave us huge confidence. We knew then we were good enough to compete.
“The players in the squad came from Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal, Celtic.”
Bonner had been Jock Stein’s last signing as the Celtic manager in 1988 and went on to play 641 times for the Hoops as well as winning 80 caps for the Republic of Ireland.
It was a far cry from the Donegal League, where he had lined out for his native Keadue Rovers.
“I don’t know how I did it to step up from the Donegal League and be able to hold my own. It was a brilliant time,” Bonner said in an interview at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Letterkenny..
Bonner’s book was written with Scottish writer and broadcaster Gerard McDade.
Bonner said: “I played with the biggest team in the world in my eyes, Celtic, and played with my country at the top level.
“People affected me along the way and were a big part of the journey and I wanted to capture them in the book. I’m happy with the result.”
Listen to an audio interview, by Charlie Collins, below …