Leighton Cullen was only seven years old when Ireland enjoyed their memorable adventures in Germany at Euro 88. But with his Packie Bonner haircut he was very much a part of Jackie’s army.

Being a kid born in 1981. My first memory of football was the 1988 Euros. As a seven year old just getting into football in a major way I loved Ireland’s first ever major tournament experience.

It was great the buzz. All around the area we lived , it was football crazy. I remember going into Dicks barber and asking for a Packie Bonner haircut. The tournament on a whole was brilliant and we got a good group with the Dutch , English and Russians / Soviet Union.

The first game I will always remember. We had the game with England, the big opportunity for the squad and the Nation to get one over our closest rivals. At the time though it was asking for a lot. Lucky for us it took a Scot to score the goal to beat the English. I can see the cross coming in now from the wing, Houghton ghosting into the box unmarked, the smallest man on the pitch scoring a header against England. The place went mad. It was a great feeling. I remember at full-time in the court where we lived all the other neighbours came out to celebrate a huge win; a mini party took place which was great back in those hard times of the 80s.

In a tense match we were hanging on, working our balls off, then with 10 minutes to go the Dutch struck.

Next up for the Irish was the Soviet Union in which we scored at the time the greatest goal I have ever seen an Irishman score. Ronnie Whelan with a bicycle kick; a brilliant goal that you would have thought wouldn’t be bettered until the wonder goal from Van Basten later in the tournament. The game finished 1-1, a plucky draw for the boys in green.
This meant we had to look for a draw in the last game against the Dutch to make the semi finals. In a tense match we were hanging on, working our balls off, then with 10 minutes to go the Dutch struck a goal by Kieft to knock the plucky Irish out. I felt like shit. I never thought football would make me feel so sad yet I was happy we got there. Even more impressively we did so with our best player at home at the time in Liam Brady who didn’t get the chance to play at the Euros. It was a great time to be a kid and relishing in the team that Jack built. Jackie’s Army. For once Ireland were decent in football.
The late 80s was the best, most successful era for Irish football. Two years later we qualified for our first World Cup in Italy in 1990. Being a kid back then in that time it was great to see your country getting to two major finals back to back. It was just amazing. 80s football was full of passion both on and off the pitch and to experience that at a young age was just the best thing ever.