Back in 1908 the great Irish patriot Michael Collins denounced soccer and cricket as ‘garrison games’ fostered by the British to undermine Irish culture. He must have been spinning in his grave when Irish soccer burst on the world scene in the 1990s under the inspired leadership of Jack Charlton, one of England’s heroes of the 1966 World Cup final.
Ireland has some pretty formidable soccer heroes of her own, and four of them are portrayed on the set of 41c stamps released on 14 May on the eve of the 2002 championships. Paul McGrath and David O’Leary are defenders while Packie Bonner is one of the coolest goalies in the business. Odd man out (quite literally) is Roy Keane, one of the most versatile mid-fielders in soccer ever, but dropped from the national squad on the very eve of the Japan-Korea matches in a bust-up with team manager Mick McCarthy that hit the world’s headlines.
The stamps are available in self-adhesive booklets of 10 and a conventionally gummed sheetlet of 16, with Bonner in a horizontal strip of four and the others in two vertical strips, each containing three se-tenant pairs, on a background montage of footballing scenes.