Alan McLoughlin celebrating after his goal in Windsor Park with John Aldridge and Dennis Irwin. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile

Farewell to a great

How sad to see that the former Republic of Ireland footballer Alan McLoughlin died this week at the age of 54.

I’d like to say that I remember him well, but I don’t remember too much more about him other than that famous goal in that famous match in Windsor Park in November 1993.

I re-watched that match when it was replayed on RTÉ during the first lockdown. It was a World Cup 1994 qualifying fixture against Northern Ireland, the last game in the group.

The Republic of Ireland needed a result of some kind and Northern Ireland were not keen to facilitate that. They were extremely motivated to stop us qualifying in fact.

The match was awful, with a terrible standard of football on both sides. It was awful too due to the hate and bile that reined down from the stands at Windsor Park. It really was something else.

When I watched that about a year ago, it seemed that the Northern Ireland we saw on our screens so long ago in 1993 was consigned to the past, and gone forever. That Northern Ireland was no longer a place of such irrational hatred and ugliness.

Unfortunately it reappeared again recently when loyalists rioted on the streets recently. Nearly a hundred police officers were injured during the riots. How will these people react if a united Ireland was declared? There might need to be Irish soldiers on the streets of Belfast, Newry and Dungannon.

Anyway, back to the unfortunate Alan McLoughlin. He won 42 caps for the Republic of Ireland scoring two goals under Jack Charlton and Mick McCarthy and he was named Ireland’s Player of the Year in 1996.

That was a serious achievement in an era when the Irish team was strong and boasted the likes of Roy Keane and Denis Irwin in the team, so he was a very accomplished player. He went to two World Cups with Ireland too.

FAI President Gerry McAnaney said: “Alan will always be remembered for that goal in Belfast, a goal that brought the entire country to its feet. He was a great player for Ireland, a fantastic footballing man who coached so many young players and a very proud family man. We were lucky to have him as one of our Irish football family and I know I speak on behalf of everyone involved with Irish football when I sympathise with Debbie and his family at this most difficult of times.”

The FAI paid tribute to Alan in March before the Luxembourg game.

Incredibly, in 1990 Manchester-born Alan got called up for Ireland on the same day he got a call up for England. Ireland B were to face England B at Turner’s Cross in March. Both Alan’s parents were Irish-born and his mother’s joy at his Irish call-up sealed the deal. He picked Ireland and proceeded to score against England in Cork. RIP Alan.