In early November 1993, Islington-born Irish international Eddie McGoldrick came off the bench for Arsenal in a Cup Winners’ Cup second round tie at Belgian side Standard Liege. Arsenal were flying. Already 3-0 up from the first leg in Highbury, McGoldrick replaced striker Alan Smith at half time with his team four goals up on the night.
Wearing the number 16 jersey with no name on top, McGoldrick played his part in the rout, setting up goals for Paul Merson and Kevin Campbell before scoring a screamer late in game. Marauding down the right with his arm out looking for possession, he ran onto a perfectly weighted through ball by Merson, took one touch, and hammered the ball home at the near post.
McGoldrick, wheeling away to the right corner flag in celebration, had wrapped up the 10-0 aggregate rout, sending Arsenal through to the quarter finals. His team saw off Torino and PSG, and then a Gianfranco Zola-inspired Parma one-nil in the final. McGoldrick replaced Merson with three minutes remaining, completing his finest moment in an Arsenal jersey.
Two years later, the midfielder was sold to Manchester City ending a largely unsuccessful spell at Highbury. One Arsenal supporter wrote: “But for every David O’Leary or Liam Brady, there is an Eddie McGoldrick! Just as Ireland had given Arsenal heroes and stars we counter balanced that by giving them steady Eddie.” McGoldick represented the Republic of Ireland 15 times, and was an unused member of the 1994 World Cup squad.
Steady Eddie’s glorious strike against the annihilated Belgian team was his first and, sadly, only goal for Arsenal. Incredibly, his is the last goal an Irish player has scored for Arsenal! 22 years ago! Graham Barrett and Anthony Stokes both earned senior caps, but failed to find the back of the net.
For relatively young football fans, the lack of an Irish presence at Arsenal is not surprising, but 5 Irish players have amassed a century of caps for the club, starting with ‘wing wizard’ Joe Haverty in the 1950’s, and many more have had a profound effect on the club’s history.
Liam Brady (235 league games before moving to Italy in 1980), as described by the Daily Cannon, “remains Arsenal’s most iconic Irishman. He still gets voted into every Arsenal all-time eleven.” After retiring, Brady spent 17 years building the Arsenal academy into one of the most respected in the world. Unfortunately, despite the presence of Barrett, Stokes, Stephen Bradley and Keith Fahey, the era of the Irish player ended and the club looked further afield for top class football talent.
Frank Stapleton (108 goals in 300 club appearances) and John Devine are also added to a prestigious list of centurion Arsenal players. Striker Niall Quinn chipped in 20 goals in 94 club games over 8 seasons.
And, of course, there are David O’Leary’s 722 appearances which still stand as the record for Arsenal. The defender is ranked 14th in the list of Arsenal’s “Greatest 50 Players” on the club’s official website (Brady is in at 8th); a monumental achievement given Arsenal have had some outstanding centre-backs, including Frank McLintock, Tony Adams and Sol Campbell, down the years. O’Leary’s place in Irish sporting folklore is cemented after his penalty shoot-out winner against Romania in the 1990 World Cup.
But this is all about Eddie McGoldrick, the man who, just over 22 years ago, became the last Republic of Ireland international to make it onto the Arsenal score sheet. Moreover, his goal that night in Liege completed Arsenal’s biggest ever European win; a record that hasn’t been beaten, but was equalled in 2007 when Slavia Prague were given a shelling in the Champions League.
Eddie McGoldrick. Record breaker.
by Andrew Farrell