Arsenal At The World Cup #4: David O’Leary v Romania 1990
Italia ’90 is revered by some as a fantastic World Cup which in part it was. For those who had the misfortune to watch any of the Group F games featuring Egypt, England, Netherlands and Republic of Ireland, well, we would argue differently. Six games, seven goals and some of the most mind-numbingly inept football that gave little indication of the drama that would propel England to the semi-finals.
For the Irish, emerging from the group was a realistic hope but probably not expected at the expense of the Dutch. Their encounter with Egypt was tedious to the extent that Barry Davies, commentating for the BBC, fell asleep for twenty minutes, waking with the words, “An unprofessional shambles by Davies” and to find Ireland had barely moved half the length of the pitch in the meantime.
The brilliant scene from ‘The Van‘ as David O’Leary strode forward and planted the ball in the opposite side of the net to Lung’s dive. Packie Bonner had saved the Romanians final penalty from Timofte, leaving the outcome hanging on O’Leary’s spot kick. The rest is history.
Italia ’90 had not been overly kind to O’Leary before that moment. A squad member, O’Leary had not made any appearances before being brought on as a substitute in the 94th minute for Steve Staunton. The penalty shootout duly arrived. David O’Leary recalled:
I had come on late in the game, so I was quite fresh and I fancied taking a penalty. Some players didn’t want the responsibility but I grasped it.
To be honest it was a relief to be taking one. Kevin Sheedy shouted ‘Don’t miss’, but I really didn’t feel nervous.
Lest anyone wonder what the pressure on a player is, O’Leary summed it up:
I shudder to think what it would it would have been like if I had missed