Back in 1990 there was an old song which rang out with the chant
‘Ole, Ole, Ole, we`re all part of Jackie`s Army, we`re all off to It-al-y’
Ireland was in the midst of economic deprivation with many school leavers hopping on the boat to the UK in search of what seemed would be a lifetime of exile. Back then being in the World Cup was completely surreal for us Irish. In fact, it was the first time that we had qualified for competition. Two years earlier we had qualified for our first major senior mens’ soccer tournament and had scored a famous win against our most fiercest rival England when Ray Houghton headed the winner over a hapless Peter Shilton.
The chorus that was ringing in every Irish person`s ears during the Italian World Cup referred to the old English football hero Jack Charlton who had the Midas touch in turning around the fortunes and success of the Irish soccer.
Charlton was a no- nonsense type of individual. He didn’t do finesse. He even ignored much of the talent at his disposal when he took over the Irish job and instead concentrated on planning his game play around a laboured style of forceful attach that was epitomised by a swash buckling ‘ no surrender’ characteristic. Those that had the silky balls skills were left on the sideline as the team ethic was but to the foremost in order for the Irish flag to sail high in the international skies.
At that time Tony Mangan was still enjoying the odd game of football. Although in the midst of his ultra running career, his fitness leant to his ability on the ball. In spite of Tony`s athleticism and the extreme time commitments that he had to give to the preparation to his powerful exploits he still found the odd moment with mates to have a kick about.
Such was the lingo at that time that Tony would be undressing as would another member of the other team in order to design the make shift pitch most probably somewhere at the end of a Dublin street or a green patch not too far from a track. Then the terminology of using ‘ jumpers for goalposts’ was popular and Tony would have raised a smile or two as he jinked in and out of the action mimicking the Irish World Cup heroes of Bonnar, Moran, McGrath, Whelan, Houghton, Sheedy and Cascarino.
Of course that was then and this is now. At present Tony is walking in aid of cancer awareness all around the world. He hasn`t time for a kick about and as he wanders the roads he is constantly wondering about the latest result in the 2018 World Cup whilst manys the feet of millions around the world are escalated onto sofas and following each camera angle of this over paid millionaires on a football pitch when their millions could do so much more for people like Tony and all that he stand for.
It may not be 1990 anymore but it is World Cup time. Perhaps its time to start a new chant to get more people on Tony`s side. It may go something like this
‘Ole, Ole, Ole, we`re all part of Tony`s Army, we`re all off to Asia soon!’