(These words appeared in a special 32-page supplement in The Star – put together by my wife Connie who was Sports Editor – when Jack Charlton resigned in 1996.)
Thanks Jack…thanks for that day in June 1988 when I sat in my living room – it was long before the pubs were filled to bursting point for all our matches – and I watched that magical moment when Ray put the ball in the English net.
I remember running into the garden shouting: “We’ve scored, we’ve scored.”
But sure everyone knew. Even in the garden, you could hear the cheer going up from every house.
I think we celebrated that day because we thought we’d never see its like again. But we did. Lots of times.
Thanks for the celebrations when we came back. The first of the open-topped buses with Ray singing “Who put the ball in the English net? I did.” And John Aldridge barely being prevented from doing a spontaneous strip on the bus at Parnell Square.
Thanks for Hungary where we all got locked for about four pence – even if the match was a bit of a bore.
But it was great craic anyway.
Thanks for Malta, even if half the crew were late because of the fog.
Thanks, by the way, for finding Aldo and Ray in the first place.
And thanks for Italy. Oh my God, thanks for Italy. Every glorious moment of it.
Thanks for Cagliari and the first time we got around the booze ban.
I remember it so well. A few hours before the match. Eating pasta in a restaurant. And the waiter asking us if we wanted Coke and telling him we didn’t and him asking again and us telling him again we didn’t and them him asking if we wanted the red Coke or the white Coke.
And thanks for that draw against England after the thunderstorm.
All right, the game against Egypt wasn’t a classic.
But we beat the booze ban again didn’t we? Bloody Mary’s are food, not drink, the barman said. So we lashed into them.
And thanks for the draw against Holland. It was a magic night. And we beat the booze ban again because we found out where the cops were drinking.
Thanks for that whole time in Palermo. For Mondello Beach. For the swimming and the sunbathing. For the fun. And for the friends we made.
Thanks for Genoa.
A fabulous city, glorious weather. And the penalty shoot-out. I couldn’t watch.
I knew we were through when Cathal Dervan kissed me. On the lips. Normally he’d get a smack for something like that. But what the heck. I kissed him back.
And thanks for Rome. The Eternal City.
We found the bar selling Guinness. It was like going home after a long trip.
And thanks for the Pope. Come on ye boys in green.
And we did have to go home after battling so bravely against Italy. And the referee.
Boy, did we party that night.
Before the flight home.
That was the business.
I sat beside Quinny. Yeh, he hated flying. But looking out the window, I couldn’t let helping a tear fall when I saw the crowd.
Neither could you Jack. You don’t talk about it. I never saw a photograph of it.
But I saw it. I saw the tear fall from your eye and splash off your cheek at Dublin Airport. Hard man my arse. You cried like the rest of us.
Thanks for that whole summer. The magic of it. The best time I ever had in my life. Honestly, the best.
Thanks for Wembley even if this time Ray Houghton wouldn’t have scored if the English had no team out there. It was a great night. You’ll never beat the Irish.
Thanks for Poznan. OK, it’s a kip. But thanks anyway. The booze was cheap and the lads from Fairview were mighty craic.
Thanks for Turkey. Another kip. But we had a ball.
Thanks for Seville and Belfast (not really) and another weird summer, this time on a train through Russia and Belarus and Latvia and Lithuania and Estonia.
Boy, were the hotels rotten. No hot water.
But we found gargle. Didn’t we always.
And more new friends. You can’t help but make friends when you’re on a train for 20 hours.
And thanks for America. Thanks for Giants Stadium and the pride busting out of us when we saw the crowd. And Ray’s goal.
Thanks for that magic. It was magic. Stuff Dunphy. It was glorious.
Thanks for Orlando and that heat and Disneyworld and Universal Studios and the craic with the Dutch.
Thanks for everything. For the pride in being Irish, for the friends, for the fun, for trying, for liking us, for making us laugh.
And for lashing Dunphy. Fair dues to you.
I don’t know who the new man will be.
But no matter what, no matter who, you’ll always be welcome in Ireland Jack.
Jack, the unlikely hero, the gruff Yorkshireman, the impetuous manager, the determind boss, the dream-maker.