The 1990 World Cup kicked off on this day 30 years ago (8 June) – with Cameroon kicking seven shades of sh*te out of a braggadocious Argentina – and while the standard of football over the course of the tournament rarely set the world alight, for this small island in the north eastern Atlantic, it was an unforgettable time to be alive.

The Republic of Ireland team’s achievements in reaching the quarter final of their first World Cup are still talked about in revered tones: Packie Bonner’s ‘snarl’ ahead of the goal against England, Dunphy’s post-Egypt match rant, Quinn’s scrambled equaliser against the Dutch, O’Leary’s deft penalty past the Romanian goalkeeper.

It led to absolute scenes, as this footage from Walkinstown Roundabout demonstrates…


And then there were the SONGS! In the run up to the tournament, it seemed like the world and its mother were hitting the studio to record a fitting tribute to Jack Charlton’s charges as they journeyed south, with some, such as Put Em Under Pressure, still earning a festive airing anytime Ireland accomplishes sporting achievement.

To mark the three decades since a month that Ireland will never forget, 909originals has compiled our winning XI of the best Ireland football songs from Italia 90.

“The nation holds its breath” and all that… 🙂

11. Pat Good ‎– Bless Them All

Winner of the Gerry Ryan ‘Song for Italy’ contest, Pat Good’s Irish ditty calls on divine inspiration for the travelling squad, something that was realised a few weeks later when the lads had an audience with the Pope. “Bless Cascarino, God bless his Grandma / Bless Whelan, and Morris, and big Paul McGrath…”


10. Penney’s Winning Team – The Team That Jack Built

Long before they became known as the archetype for global fast fashion, Penney’s (aka Primark) was a staunch supporter of Irish football, evidenced by the presence of adverts in the local press with various players (usually Mick McCarthy) donning its shirts and slacks.

With that in mind, the retailer put together this upbeat number, reminding us that “when we get to Rome, we know the folks back home will say… that’s the team that Jack built.”


9. Dermot Morgan – Deck Of Cards

A few years before earning the ‘Golden Cleric’ as Father Ted, Dermot Morgan was an established comic on the Irish stand-up scene, and this take on Tex Ritter’s Deck Of Cards is pure gold.

“When I see the four, I think of the four green fields on which soccer is played: Dalymount, Tolka, Lansdowne and the fourth one we lost to strangers, Milltown.”


8. Frank O’Meara – Here We Go

“We’re taking on the whole world, in the greatest game of all – here we go to Italy!” A jolly folk-style ballad, which sums up pretty much the mood of the nation in advance of the tournament. The craic, as O’Meara put it, “will be 90”. Few would disagree.


7. Dermot Morgan – World Cup Rap (Ooh Aah Paul McGrath)

Dermot Morgan’s second appearance on the team sheet pays tribute to Dalkey United’s finest export, the legendary Paul McGrath. You couldn’t stay for long in a smoke-filled Irish pub in those days without McGrath bring serenaded at some point (even when Ireland weren’t playing), so it would be remiss of us to exclude this cheery number, which sees Morgan do his best Scottish, Donegal and, ahem, Russian accents.


6. Padraig Bailey – Hooray, Hooray

Padraig Bailey’s traditional Irish number makes us long for warm fires, hot whiskeys and an evening full of pub-based banter… not the easiest of things to find in Rome, but the travelling hordes didn’t mind, we suspect.


5. Dublin City Ramblers – The Boys In Green

The Dublin City Ramblers updated their Euro 88 song for the following World Cup, with none of the sentiment lost – instead of being “off to Germany”, we were now “off to Italy”. If the 1990 World Cup had been held in Russia, or Qatar, however we suspect that the rhyming quatrain might have been altered somewhat.


4. The Memories – The Game

The Memories’ inspired rewrite of Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start The Fire has to be the cleverest of the Italia 90 songs, and one that packs in references to Hungary, Billy Bingham, Stuttgart and Dutch master René van de Kerkhof over four and a half glorious minutes.

All together now, “We’re gonna start a fire… we’ll have Jack to mind us and the fans behind us…”


3. Dublin City Ramblers – Que Sera Sera

The Ramblers return with a cover of the Doris Day number, which to us will always be synonymous with the wistful optimism of that summer in 1990, when the whole nation lost itself for a series of glorious moments. “Whatever will be, will be… we’re going to Italy.” We couldn’t agree more.


2. Liam Harrison And The Goal Celebrities – Give It A Lash Jack

The winner of the Gay Byrne Show competition to find a song for the World Cup (beating 353 others in the process), all proceeds from Liam Harrison’s iconic Give It A Lash Jack went to Goal, which we can only assume led to a bumper summer for the charity.

With lyrics about Ruud Gullit “dyeing his dreadlocks green” and Russia seeking to change the terms of the Warsaw Pact, it’s a stone-cold classic.


1. Republic of Ireland Football Squad – Put ‘Em Under Pressure

Produced by U2’s Larry Mullen, and featuring the haunting voice of Clannad’s Moya Brennan, this reworking of The Horslips An Dearg Doon is quite possibly the greatest football song ever, regardless of its association with Italia 90, and regularly gets an airing at weddings, birthdays, or any social gathering, truth be told.

As The42.ie put it in its tribute to the track, its iconic nature means that even 30 years later, most Irish fans can still recite the spoken word Jack Charlton snippets verbatim, especially after a few pints… “We’ll prepare, and we’ll go, and we’ll do our best. We’ll put em under pressure.”


We hope you enjoyed our trip down memory lane, feel free to share your musical memories of Italia 90 in the comments below. COYBIG! 🙂

1 thought on “World Cup Italia 90 kicked off on this day 30 years ago. Here’s our winning XI of songs from that unforgettable summer…

  1. My Ma and Da are there somewhere…we lived just around the corner from the Kestrel. Their local.

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