Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Brazil’

Homegrown Hero: Mick Leech

Article in the FAI’s Republic of Ireland v USA match programme (Aviva Stadium, 2 June 2018)

IMG-4451

In a new series on League of Ireland players who earned caps, we catch up with a Shamrock Rovers’ goalscoring legend.

Before Mick Leech ever got two goals for the Republic of Ireland in Brazil, before he scored 132 times in his long League of Ireland career or got 56 goals across all competitions in the 1968/69 season, and before he ever earned his legendary status at Shamrock Rovers helping the Hoops win half of their FAI Cup six-in-a-row in the 1960s, he was playing with junior side Ormeau.

During that time, a month before his 18th birthday, he travelled to the 1966 World Cup in England as a spectator. He watched Hungary play Brazil and was blown away by the brilliance of that Hungarian team. Within a year, he would join Rovers and win his first FAI Cup and just three years later he would line out for Ireland against that Hungarian side.

“I thought Hungary were the best team I’d ever seen playing when I saw them in the ‘66 World Cup against Brazil in Goodison Park.

“They were a brilliant team with Bene and others who beat Brazil 3-1 that day and a few years later I was playing against them in Dalymount Park. I thought it was an honour to be on the pitch with them,” said Leech about Ireland’s 2-1 defeat to the Magyars in June 1969.

fullsizeoutput_6ae5

It was only a month before that Leech had first been included in an Ireland squad. “Outside Easons there was a paper seller with a big poster beside him and it said ‘Leech called into Ireland squad’ so that is the way I heard about it!”

If the way in which he learned about making his first squad inclusion seemed a bit strange, his debut in that game against Czechoslovakia left an even bigger impression. Leech ended up with 10 stitches, being locked out of the Dalymount Park dressing room and having to ring his father to get a lift home after the match!

“I was carried off in the first half. The fella would have got six years for the tackle these days, never mind a yellow card! I got taken in the ambulance to the Mater Hospital.

“By the time I got seen to it was late. I had to walk back up the Phibsborough Road in my football gear to Dalymount afterwards. But sure there was nobody there.

“The bar was at least open so I could ring my Da and go ‘look Da, can you come over and collect me?’ There was no way I could get home with all the bandages on!

“In those days for Ireland you just met on a Saturday morning up in Milltown and we would have a kick around. Some of the players were playing club matches in England and would only arrive on Sunday morning when we would all report to the Gresham Hotel for the game.

“You’d have cup of tea and some toast and the manager Charlie Hurley would name the team and say this is the way we are going to play.”

In 1972, Ireland took part in a 20 team ‘mini-World Cup’ called the Brazil Independence Cup. “We were based in Recife and Natal in the north of Brazil and we did quite well.”

In Ireland’s opening game Leech scored his first international goal in the 2-1 win over Iran. They beat Ecuador next 3-2 before losing to Chile 2-1. Leech got his only other international goal from his eight Ireland caps in the final group game against Portugal.

“The winning team went on to play in two groups of four. If we had beaten Portugal, we would have gone on to Rio for the next round. There were eight Benfica players including Eusebio in the team (who were double winners that season).”

Ireland lost 2-1 with Portugal progressing to the next round and then the final in the Maracana against Brazil. They lost 1-0 only conceding a last minute goal from Jairzinho – a player Leech had seen play in the ’66 World Cup six years previously.

Reflecting on what might have been Leech concludes that “half the lads on the team who were playing professionally in England, didn’t want to play for a couple of more weeks and wanted to go home but for me it would have been about going to Rio to play in, what was as far as I was concerned, the home of football.”

For someone who went on to become a League of Ireland legend, Leech can always reflect with pride his time in an Ireland jersey.

He is a true Homegrown Hero.

IMG_4393

Tickets, who needs tickets?

It may be just a month away but it is not too late to pick up some tickets for the World Cup in Brazil! Admittedly, availability isn’t for the most high profile games (Japan v Greece anyone?) – but we are talking about tickets for the biggest sporting event of the year. Other matches available include Cameroon v Croatia, Ivory Coast v Japan, Uruguay v Costa Rica and Bosnia v Iran. It doesn’t look like there are too many Swiss fans travelling to Brazil, as there are tickets for all of their games still on sale against France, Honduras and Ecuador.

http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/organisation/ticketing/

I already have my tickets ordered and will be heading to five games in Brazil. When I booked the tickets, it was before the draw was made last year so I was unsure what games I would be seeing. As it turned out I will get the opportunity to see such players as Cristiano Ronaldo, John Obi Mikel, Miralem Pjanic, Shinji Kagawa, Michael Essien, Arturo Vidal, Yuri Zhirkov and Tim Cahill in matches in both Cuiaba and Brasilia – that’s if those stadiums get finished in time but I’m thinking positively! I haven’t got tickets for Curitiba where as of last week there were still 27,000 seats yet to be installed in the stadium!

1998 France

Back in 1998 to order tickets for the World Cup in France there was no online internet ticket portal but it was done over the phone. Having been eliminated at the play off stage, Ireland didn’t make those finals (but the boys in green have a good shot at making the next tournament there in the expanded 24 team EURO 2016). Adidas’ advert for that World Cup, to soundtrack of Massive Attack, talked about “World Cup 98: it’s about those who love the game enough to do something about it”. That love for me was about spending 500 Francs (or about £60 of old Irish money), the cost of an expensive ticket hotline phonecall and flights to France to secure a seat for a second round match in Marseille. On a baking hot day in the Stade Velodrome, where they are finally putting a roof on the stadium 16 years later, we watched an awful game between Italy and Norway with Christian Vieiri’s 18th minute strike giving the Azzuri the win.

2002 Korea and Japan

Rivaldo

Red Devils

IMG_3987

I wouldn’t say I was too confident that Ireland would beat Holland in September 2001 to put themselves in the driving seat for qualification for the 2002 World Cup in Japan and Korea but I’d already bought my tickets, via the internet, for Ireland’s games by the time that crucial qualifier took place in Lansdowne Road. A Roy Keane tackle, a McAteer strike and a Van Haal meltdown with his hourglass 4-2-4 formation and Ireland had a famous victory (see highlights here) and a play-off spot from which they would secure their passage to the World Cup.

In addition to supporting Ireland, I also purchased tickets to a couple of games in Korea. In Suwon, a few days before Ireland’s elimination to Spain on penalties, I watched eventual winners Brazil beat Costa Rica 5-2. I easily joined in the celebrations when Rivaldo and Ronaldo scored that day having backed them each way at 16/1 and 18/1 for tournament top scorers! I was also lucky to be one of very few non-Korean supporters in the stadium in Incheon when they sensationally beat Portugal 1-0 to qualify for the second round.

.

2006 Germany

Fast forward to 2006 and there was no Ireland in the tournament and no clear view of the pitch with my tickets, or so I thought. With tickets in high demand the only ones I could get my hands on were “obstructed view” tickets. I did have a cameraman close to my eye-line in Hamburg and that got me a 40% discounted ticket but I could clearly see that Ukraine were far superior to Saudi Arabia as they ran out 4-0 winners. With another 40% discount, my €27 ticket got me a seat in what would normally be the away section in Schalke’s stadium in Gelsenkirchen (where Ireland will play Germany later this year). I could see about 95% of the pitch clearly with the corner flag viewed through glazing topped by metal chevrons. Eventual semi-finalists Portugal beat Mexico 2-1 in an entertaining game under the closed roof while in Kaiserslautern I saw Spain beat the Saudis 1-0 in the last major tournament Spain didn’t win!

16700016celebration2

.

.

2010 South Africa

At half-time in the Stade de France in November 2009, with my Ireland team specific tickets already paid for, I could picture myself watching Ireland playing in South Africa. A Thierry Henry handball later and those dreams had died. Even the thud of FIFA returning to me several weeks later the price of Ireland tickets all the way to the final, didn’t improve my mood.

IMG_395284970001

With the option of following Ireland closed off I was able to pick up some spare tickets from friends who lots and lots of tickets. Five friends had applied for three tickets each for seven games in South Africa and got them all! 185 tickets was going to cost a lot of money so after cancelling a couple of credit cards, they had 63 tickets and were looking for a few people to take some tickets off their hands and I wasn’t going to miss this opportunity.

I got to five matches in five days split between Johannesburg and Pretoria including seeing the host nation lose to Uruguay, Diego Maradona’s Argentina side play in Soccer City and Brazil beating Ivory Coast. I then picked up a local Category 4 ticket and for €15 I got to see the then reigning World Cup holders Italy get eliminated (see Four Continent Football part 3).

It is all about Brazil 2014 now though and I’m still on the look out for a ticket for the second round game in Rio so if you hear of any spares, do please let me know!