Republic of Ireland legend Ray Houghton with, from left, Theo Kelly, age 10, James Farrell, age 9, and Rory Farrell, age 14, all from Waterford City at the launch of the National Football Exhibition Waterford at Waterford City Hall in Waterford. Photos: Matt Browne/Sportsfile.
When the Republic of Ireland faced England back in Euro 1988, it was Ray Houghton who became famous as he scored the only goal in a historic 1-0 win for the Irish in Germany and some 31 years later, he still remembers that looping header with great fondness.
Houghton spoke about it as he launched the National Football Exhibition at City Hall on Thursday (which runs to Sunday) last as Ireland prepares to host four games next summer in the Euro 2020 Championships with these matches set to be played at the Aviva Stadium.
The Exhibition, which is free to attend, sees six different zones to represent various parts of Irish and European football. It contains rare match programmes, unique match jerseys, treasured memorabilia and an interactive element with a Photo Booth, a recording booth, and quiz stations to test your footballing knowledge.
There is a designated Waterford section to the Exhibition that sees contributions from Waterford FC, the Waterford Junior League and memorabilia from John O’Shea with the centurion named as the Local Waterford Legend at this historic event.
De La Salle coach Gavin Lonergan was presented with an award for grassroots football by FAI General Manager Noel Mooney during the launch of the National Football Exhibition Waterford at Waterford City Hall.
De La Salle’s Gavin Lonergan, who is a highly regarded coach at the Williamstown club, was presented with the National Football Exhibition’s first ‘Grassroots Hero’ award for his contribution to football locally by FAI General manager Noel Mooney.
Senior figures from the local game were represented at the launch which included the Mayor of Waterford City & County Cllr. John Pratt, the Metropolitan Mayor Cllr. Breda Brennan, representatives of Waterford FC, the Waterford Junior League, the Waterford Schoolboy League and the referees society, who were represented by Johnny Matthews.
Wexford’s Michelle O’Neill was the latest person to reveal memorabilia at the Exhibition with her official match jersey from the recent FIFA Women’s World Cup final that she officiated at and signed red and yellow cards from the game.
Speaking at the launch, Houghton said, “I’m delighted to be back in Waterford. I was last here when I presented the Park Hotel Awards in Dungarvan back in 2010 and I had a great night back then. I also remember playing a game in Waterford with Fulham back in 1982/83 in my first season with the club.
“It’s great to be at an event like this as we looked forward to the Euros next year in Dublin. I’m happy so far with how things are going for Mick and the boys, but there are tougher games to go for us. We have got off to a good start, but hopefully we can qualify for the tournament next year especially with games in Ireland.
“He is going to be under pressure to qualify because we did in 2012 and 2016, but it would be nice if Ireland are to be part of the Euro Championships next summer and we’re all hopeful. I suppose that’s why we’re trying to showcase this as it’s the 60th anniversary of the European Championships.”
“When you look at how much the competition has grown is phenomenal and I think it’s the third biggest sporting TV audience behind the World Cup and Olympics. It’s a huge incentive for the players with the chance to play group games at home and I’m sure we’ll be looking forward to that should we qualify.
“Sport is all about making memories and I suppose that I’m still remembered as the man that put the ball in the English net back in Euro 1988 and then against Italy at the World Cup in USA `94. When something goes in your favour at one of those big tournaments, you are always remembered for it. I’m lucky it happened twice.
“I think that was certainly the case for me against England in 1988 before I tasted the World Cup for the first time in 1990 and then again in 1994 where I was lucky enough to score against Italy. Those are special memories and it’s what people remember from big tournaments.
“We are here in Waterford and this county has produced some outstanding players like Jim Beglin, Daryl Murphy, John O’Shea and now you have two captains, Jayson Molumby U-21 and Lee O’Connor U-19. It’s great to have them showcased here at the Exhibition.
“It’s not only about the International players, but also about the players that have made such an impact in the development of football and putting football on the map in Waterford. They have done it with great distinction and a real credit to their families.
“The European Championships has a great history and it would be great to see so many young people come along and see the players that have served their country for years. It’s a free event so there’s no excuses for parents and even grandparents to rekindle their memories.
FIGHTING OUR CORNER
“We are really fighting our corner here in Ireland and you need the best talent around. We were very unlucky at the Under 19 Championships recently in Armenia when you consider we were missing 10 or 11 players, but we are up against it.
“We got to fight our corner at the minute and stand up for ourselves because so many other sports are in the public eye like golf, hurling and rugby especially after Shane Lowry’s win at the Open. Even you had it with the cricket for one day last week so we have to keep it going for soccer now and hopefully we can do that.
“Gone are the days in this country where you only had three or four sports. Soccer has to fight tooth and nail right now to make sure that we have enough talent coming through. We have to improve it and we have to showcase it. That’s what we’re trying to do here and I would urge people to come along and see this wonderful Exhibition as we continue to look forward to the European Championships coming to Dublin next summer.”