Having replaced GAA kit suppliers O’Neills in 1986, Ireland’s Adidas era coincided with the appointment of Jack Charlton as manager of the underwhelming national side.
The former England defender and World Cup winner transformed the Republic’s standing on the European and international stage primarily by augmenting the talents of the better Irish players with those of dubious celtic connections from various parts of the British Isles.
The Ashington-born boss then sent the boys in green out to fight the powers of world football with a mixture of brawn and bluster with a combative, long ball style they’d rarely seen before. Many were incapable of dealing with the fervour of the Irish either on or off the pitch.
Having qualified for their first ever European Championships in 1988, few gave Ireland a prayer in a group that contained old foes England, the efficient, well-respected Soviet Union and tournament favourites Holland – equipped with stars such as Marco van Basten, Frank Rijkaard and European Footballer of the Year Ruud Gullit.
Ray Houghton capitalised on slack English marking to upset Bobby Robson’s men (who endured a terrible championship campaign) in Stuttgart before Ronnie Whelan’s goal earned Ireland a creditable draw with the USSR in Hannover. However, with an unlikely qualification for the semi-finals up for grabs in the final group game with the Netherlands, a late Wim Kieft header trickled past the scrambling Packie Bonner to send the Irish home disappointed but proud of their performances.
Ireland continued to use this kit in the qualification for the Italia ’90 World Cup where they would once again go toe-to-toe with England, Holland and the elite of international football.
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