From The Archives: Ireland v Germany 1936

By David Toms

With the European hangover well and truly recovered from, and the World Cup qualifying campaign due to start in the not-too-distant future, it’s time to take a look back to when Ireland thrashed Germany 5-2. If nothing else, it might help to get the belief up after a fairly deflating summer on the international front. Famous now as much for the remarkable newsreel footage of the game and the infamous match-day programme displaying the Nazi flag, the game was an important victory for the Irish side and for the organisers of the game in the country.

The game took place on Saturday October 17th 1936 in Dalymount Park in Dublin and when the German team and the delegation from the German FA arrived in the days before the match they were treated as guests of honour. According to a report in the Irish Times on the day of the match, the team had undertaken a considerable tour of the city the day before. They were met and greeted by President Eamon de Valera at government buildings before being met at the German Legation by the German Minister. Their trip to the Lord Mayor of Dublin. According to the report, the Lord Mayor observed that

international sporting events […] brought people of widely seperated countries together, created a new atmosphere of friendship and was one of the greatest factors in ensuring peace among the nations.

That night the team were guests of honour of the the Theatre Royal in the city, while the Lord Mayor continued his duties by greeting the German fans who were arriving off the steamer Reliance, on which there was some 450 German supporters.

A pre-match interview with the leader of the so-called expedition, Dr. Erbach of the German FA, displays wry bemusement regarding the German teams, all of whom were amateur players. According to the Irish Independent‘s correspondent:

Bluff and breezy Dr. Erbach, member of the German FA and the leader of the expedition, as it is called, was non-committal when asked about his team’s chances of success, but behind his cheery smile one could visualise an optimistic mood.

A deep sense of the foreigness of the visiting German team is apparent in the passage, which began with this quote from Dr. Erbach:

We hope to show the Irish people that the standard of Association football in Germany is comparable with the best any other country in the world can produce.

Much was made of the fact that several of the German players had recently competed for their country in the recently-passed Olympic games, held that year in Munich.  The Indendent also noted that winning internationals was the be-all and end-all for continental teams and that an Irish victory would be really special as a result.

The match itself was an exciting one, with the teams level at half-time before the Irish over-ran the German defence to score three goals in the second half to secure an historic victory and to take revenge for the defeat suffered at the hands of the Germans when they last met in Dortmund. The Sunday Independent ran a headline saying “Stern Display Brings Victory”.

The extensive coverage of the game in the Sunday Indepdendent described the scenes at the supper held after the game as a “red-letter day” as it was the first time a member of the executive council of government, in this case, Sean McEntee, attended a dinner hosted by the Football Association of the Irish Free State. McEntee, we are told, reminisced about his Belfast childhood when he remembers soccer was “more a religion than a sport”. Also at the dinner was Oscar Traynor, probably the most well-known soccer-playing TD in Irish history. The game was not only a big deal, but fortunately for all involved, and the players especially, a big success.

The teams that day were:

Ireland: Foley (Glasgow Celtic); O’Neill (Dundalk); Gorman (Bury); O’Reilly (St. James’ Gate); Turner (Southend Utd.); Connolly (Cork FC); P. Ellis (Bohemians); Donnelly (Dundalk); Davis (Oldham Ath.) Moore (Shamrock Rovers); Geoghegan (St. James’ Gate)

Germany: Jakob; Muezenberg; Munkert; Bodzinski; Goldbrunner; Kitzinger; Lehner; Stifling; Hohmann; Szepan; Kobierski

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