June 18th 1994. Giants Stadium, New York. Ireland 1-0 Italy. Ireland are going to win the World Cup! Sadly, Ireland didn’t win the World Cup that day but 13 year-old Ants Conaghy did win a massive game of World Cup down at Little Wembley.
Now divorced and called Anthony, the years haven’t diminished this great sporting triumph.
“The whole of Yellabattur was out. Even the big boys from Glenmore Drive. There must’ve been about tutty of us.
“Chunky Clarke was between the posts. The grass was freshly cut and there was actual nets – very rare for the time. It was just like Wembley. The first few rounds were chaos while the scuts were whittled down.”
Some of the older boys were rough.
“Muzz was the scariest of the older boys. But he got knocked out early on and went beserk, telling us he’d kill us all. He kicked the ball into the Glen and then announced he was off down the Maze to finger some young ones. He was on the glue. His eyes had the crazed look of Maradona’s but he didn’t play like there was glue on his boots, just on his brain.
“I’ve read a lot about the experiences of World Cup winners over the years. Zidane said that getting to final was a haze, but once you were there you were focussed. It was like that for me too, I’d a bit of a mouth on me but looking back I was more Zidane ’98 than ’06.”
All the local girls were watching.
“Soon I was in the final. I ran rings around the two brothers up again me. ‘This’ll get me a girlfriend I thought.’ But no, the girls flocked around the brothers what lost cos they were good looking. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was a life lesson – don’t bother if you’re ugly but talented, life will crush you.”
Conaghy rates it as his greatest achievement, better than having his kids who he says have let him down, “sportswise.”
“I go back there on the anniversary every year. I know it’s stupid, but I hope that other lads that pled that day will have the same idea as me and we’ll have a rematch and I’ll win again.
“So I’ve contacted the local social media calling for everyone who pled that day in 1994 to Little Wembley on Saturday 18th after the Ireland game for a game of World Cup. I’ve arranged a prize for the winner – a brand new Toyota Corolla.
“I need this. Please come,” said Conaghy.