Ahead of Euro 2016, Sportsfile staff photographer Dave Maher looks back over his memories and notable pictures from twenty-six years covering Republic of Ireland teams at close quarters. From 1991 up until the recent friendly against Belarus in Turners Cross, he’s covered 257 internationals, six-time full managers and three tournaments – and that’s just with the senior squad.
From Ray Houghton’s goal against Italy at the World Cup in USA 1994, to John O’Shea’s last gasp equaliser against Germany during the EURO 2016 qualifiers; and last year’s behind closed doors friendly v Northern Ireland. From Saipan, to playoff heartbreaks. From Jack Charlton, to Mick McCarthy, to Martin and Roy and all in between. He even shot Eamon Dunphy’s wedding. Dave has seen it all at close quarters.
Growing up inspired by big League of Ireland games, mostly involving St Pat’s, Shamrock Rovers and Bohemians and big visits with his dad to Republic of Ireland games at Lansdowne Road, he always wanted to check out in the action up close.
“I remember going to see Ireland playing Brazil in Lansdowne Road in ’87 and Liam Brady scored to beat them 1-0, one of the great Brazilian teams. That game stands out in my memory and going to the Qualifiers for ’86 and ’88’ as a fan, and for Italia 90 I remember being at home watching that as a TV supporter.”
By the time the qualifiers for Euro 1992 had come around Dave was covering the Republic of Ireland beat.
“When I joined Sportsfile I really wanted to do the soccer. We missed out on qualification for the Euros in Sweden in ’92 but then the qualifiers for the 1994 World Cup came around. We had Northern Ireland in our group and earned qualification up in Belfast on the last day through Alan McLoughlin’s equaliser.
It was a strange feeling there, tensions were quite high, Billy Bingham was manager of Northern Ireland so it was quite edgy that night. It was bizarre when the equaliser went in cos you could hear a pin drop; there were so few Republic fans. It was a strange feeling at the end of the game cos the players weren’t certain how other results went and couldn’t really celebrate until they knew for certain we were through.”
“I remember then coming back on the plane with the team back to Dublin and when the players came out it was maybe about 2 o’clock in the morning and the place was absolutely full of supporters at Dublin Airport.”
“USA 1994 was amazing. I was my first time actually to go to America, never mind a tournament. When the draw was made we got the Italians, Mexico and Norway. So obviously the big game was the first game in Giants Stadium against Italy.
I probably got one of the best pictures I’ve ever taken and probably one of the most memorable pictures of Ray Houghton’s first half goal in that game. Taken from actually down the other end of the pitch, which at the time I thought I was at the wrong end. But I was probably the best angle, from behind him when he struck it.”
“Nowadays we’re on digital. We were shooting film then, so you weren’t too sure if you had got it or not – now you would see it straight away on the back of the camera.
Strange thing about that goal. On a roll of film we had thirty-six pictures, so when you’d to get to about thirty or thirty-two pictures you’d change film because it was too risky. But for that particular goal, there was so much action leading up to that, I hadn’t had time to change film. So that Houghton goal picture was taken on frame ‘E’ which is after the 36th picture. So yea, it was literally the last frame, and the camera just stopped and I wasn’t sure if I had it.”
“During the match, when you were finished a roll of film, you’d put your hand up it would be collected, put into a bag and taken away. Fuji developed it for you by half-time or full-time in the press room. That Houghton goal picture went back for half-time.
So I raced in at the whistle, quickly looked at the film, found the frame, had a look at it on the lightbox, praying to god that I had got it. Then you put it onto a film scanner, connected to one of the very early Apple computers, and then that connected up to a modem on an old conventional phone line. Then fingers crossed there was a decent line and that you could get all that done and get back out for the start of the second half. It’s been used so many times since as well and you’re playing the Italians, it’s the one shot that you’re just hoping that you’ve got.”
Charlton to McCarthy
“Mick McCarthy took over from Jack in ’96. It would be a successful time for Mick, getting the team back to a World Cup in 2002, after previous disappointments. After beating Iran in Tehran in the playoff, I remember being asked into the dressing room to do pictures of the players celebrating in there, which was great because normally that is a no-go area for most cameras.
Over the years I would have had very good working relationships with all the managers and the players and built up a trust with them. This made for great behind the scenes pictures in winning dressing rooms.”
“In terms of managers, the best for pictures would have been Jack. Jack was always good with the cap, and he had a kind of swagger in his walk, he had a great presence about him. You just weren’t sure what was gona happen with Jack, he was so funny.
Trapattoni was also brilliant for pictures. I was the first photographer to get pictures after he was announced as manager when I travelled over to Salzburg to get him. During press conferences you just couldn’t take your eye off Trap, well he could basically fall off a chair, or he could get up and demonstrate to journalists how a particular move might be done in football. He was totally unpredictable but as a photographer he was just great.”
“The behind the scenes access was gained by building up a trust over the years, particularly with a lot of the underage guys, from in the late 90’s, lads like Robbie Keane, Damien Duff, and the players involved in the underage squads managed by Brian Kerr.
Myself and Brian would have struck up a very good relationship around that time and actually became very close friends.
I covered their two major wins in 1998, taking home the trophies from both the U-16 and U-18 European Championships within months of each other. The following year the U-20’s went to the World Cup in Nigeria, with the likes of Robbie Keane involved.”
“We built up great relationships then and I remember being given access to the team hotel, the lads playing golf in the corridor, shaving their heads cos of the humidity, anything to pass the time. All pretty innocent stuff but great pictures, great memories and great pictures.”
“It was a great time for the players coming up through the ranks. Some players went on to make their senior international debuts soon after. Robbie Keane and Damien Duff made their senior debut together in a town called Olomouc in the Czech Republic. And it’s strange that the two of them would then go on to represent for Ireland for so long after making their debut together.”
2002 World Cup
“Travelling to the 2002 World Cup was heading to the other side of the World and I we didn’t know what to expect heading to Saipan. We got there, we felt everything was ok, there was a big big media presence, but, we didn’t realise what was about to happen at the training pitch.
It turned then from a sports story into major news story that as photographers we had to cover. Without social media you didn’t know exactly what was going on and things started to unravel. Unfortunately it came to a point where Roy Keane was sent home.
I remember the day before Roy was sent home well. It was the only time I’ve ever photographed one player at a training session. I didn’t take a picture of any other player which is totally unheard of, just focused on Roy.
I got probably one of the best pictures I’ve taken where he was walking over the far side of the pitch and Mick McCarthy just walked into the picture.”
“The two of them just crossed over each other. Walking away from each other, with heads down and it became a really famous picture. It summed up the whole mood in the camp at the time and how difficult it was, and we were still a week and a half away from the first game.”
Roy at the airport
“I remember when Roy was leaving we did some pictures of him in the airport, he wrote about it in his autobiography. He realised when he was standing beside the ‘exit’ sign that it was a photographers dream. That they had got their picture. We had, but from a personal point of view probably one of the best players that Ireland has ever produced was going home before we had even kicked a ball so it was unfortunate and very disappointing.”
“When we got to Japan there was still so much tension, the whole country at home had gone crazy, you were either for Roy or for Mick. You couldn’t take your eye off it for a minute.
The team got out of the group. Robbie’s goal was a highlight from the Germany game. The Germans never get caught but Oliver Kahn, one of the best goalkeepers in the World, did get caught at the end by Robbie. Starting out seeing this guy scoring a goal in ’98 against Croatia front of a hundred people in the U-18 Euros, the first time I seen the cartwheel celebration, to seeing him score a famous goal to equalise against Germany in the World Cup was brilliant.
I got a picture of him running towards me with Kahn on his knees and again it was a big big picture. The fans went absolutely crazy and again it was another great moment for Robbie Keane.”
“We lost out then in the quarters to Spain on penalties in the round of 16. When it gets to penalties you’re wondering who the hero is gona be. But in the end Mendieta won it for Spain, it was just one of those horrible goals to beat Shay, he just knocked it down the middle and that was it, World Cup over.”
EURO 2012 & EURO 2016
“For Euro 2012 after all the excitement of qualifying against Estonia in the playoffs, the competition itself didn’t go well. A lot more would’ve been expected of the team, they only scored one goal in the three games. A real down side of it for me was to see Damien Duff finish up; his last game for Ireland was against the Italians, such an important player for Ireland. Without doubt we were in the hardest group, but it wasn’t to be.”
“I’m in France now covering the preparations ahead of the Republic’s first game against Sweden on Monday and there already been many great moments during the qualification. Two stand-out ones are of late goals.
As well as John O’Shea’s late equaliser against Germany, I suppose as favourite pictures go, the Robbie Brady celebration picture, away to Bosnia and Herzegovina in the playoff, would rank as one as without doubt one of the best pictures I’ve ever taken. For this particular moment everything just came together. All the fog, being in the right place at the right time, having the right lens on, and then for Robbie to just appear out of the fog. Then he’s sliding right towards me and there’s Ireland fans going mad behind me. Being a sports photographer covering the team for years, that would be the moment you dream of and it happened.”
Here’s hoping that more exciting times for the Boys in Green are just around the corner.