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The Irish Times
SPORT Monday, November 2, 1998

Photographs: Allsport.

Ireland sambas to
victory !

Tom Humphries reports from Yokohama, Japan on an historic Irish victory

After struggling to find their form on the first day of this 16 nation mini World Cup, everything came together for the Irish in the final round on the second day.

This was a classic gutsy Irish performance. Ciaran Fitzgerald would have been proud of the men in green who were determined to show some ++++++ pride

With a severely depleted squad of only five players, the Irish had to work twice as hard as their opponents who had recourse to substitutes. The second round for the Irish began with a match against Japan. The Japanese, looked dangerous but an early goal from Mick Mehigan unsettled them. This was shortly followed by a goal from Padraig McColgain (a.k.a. Podge) who calmly slipped the ball through the legs of the advancing Japanese keeper Nakashima. Just before half time, Podge made it 3-0. With resolute defending from Leo Glynn and Didier Chanut, there was little chance of the Japanese penetrating the Irish goal.When Niall O'Keeffe came out of goal for the second half and made it 4-0 , the Japanese heads went down and the Irish were on their way to a quarter final meeting with the British.

This game was definitely not for football purists. Didier Chanut, perhaps inspired by the historic role his forefathers played (or attempted to, less said about 1798 the better) in coming to the rescue of Ireland against the British, refused to fall down against the British bombardment of the Irish goal. Time and time again, his unorthodox but effective tackling impeded the British who were becoming more and more irritated with this French guerilla. Everything they tried was sabotaged by Chanut who was lucky not to be booked. Glynn roared him on and supported capably the defensive effort. In true Midland fashion, he wasn't giving anything away.

O'Keeffe was in goals again for the first half and Mehigan was industrious as ever in the middle of the field.

0-0 at the break and this tight game had penalties written all over it. Now, usually you can be guaranteed of a good laugh and and a comfortable win when it comes to PKs against the Brits, but as they had remarkably won a PK shootout in the second round against Ukraine, the Irish were anxious not to be condemned to the lottery of a shootout.

With only victory on his mind, Mehigan played the ball in low and hard into the British box and with the deftest of touches, Podge steered the ball into the back of the British net. It was a beautiful goal and had the 5,000 crowd on their feet. The Irish held on for a 1-0 victory and were now through to a semi final meeting with tournament favourites, Peru.

The second semi final was between the old rivals Brazil and Argentina.

Peru showed that they were a team for whom five a side was their bread and butter. The Irish were swept aside and left to face the Brazilians in the third place playoff, which was scheduled to kick off fifteen minutes after the end of the Irish-Peru semi final.

The crowd now was firmly behind the five lads in green and this lifted them as they trooped onto the field to face the canary shirted Brazilians.

Within five minutes of the kickoff the Brazilian's best player was swearing loudly at Chanut who refused to leave his side. The Irish were defending like terriers and O'Keeffe, Mehigan, Podge and Chanut afforded little space or opportunity to the Brazilians to initiate their usual fluid passing game.

An interception by O'Keeffe, let to the first goal and the Irish were 1-0 up. Minutes later, a well timed run by Mehigan was rewarded with a through ball from O'Keeffe. Mehigan calmly sidestepped the Brazilian keeper, and stroked the ball home.

With the Argentinians and Peruvians on the sideline watching them, the Brazilians were getting very hot under the collar. 2-0 down to the Irish ? Everyone present was loving it except them.

Early in the second half, a counter attack from Ireland brought the third Irish goal when Mehigan fed the ball out to the right to O'Keeffe who finished to put the Irish out of reach of the Brazilians.

Glynn continued to dominate his goal and the Brazilians managed to get just one goal past him despite continuous pressure.

So it was the Irish who lifted the metre high solid gold, third place trophy. Within hours this trophy was soon perched on a table at O'Carolans as the victory party got under way ! Comhgairdeas ! Next trophy - Japan Times Cup.

Brian Phelan, George Wallace played in the first round and Ishida san played one game.

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