During the World Cup, we have been reflecting on those Eagles that have represented their countries with distinction, and today leads us to Iain Dowie and one of the most famous goals in Northern Ireland’s history.
At the start of 1995, Iain Dowie was enjoying a purple patch in front of goal. Snapped up by Alan Smith from Southampton for £400,000 in January to help keep Palace – who had only scored 17 league goals before his arrival – stay in the Premier League, he began imposing himself on opposition defences and netted five times in his first two months in red and blue.
That meant he was razor sharp ahead of an international break in March, when he would face the Republic of Ireland in a typically-emotionally charged game in Dublin during qualification for Euro 96. The Republic had swatted aside their neighbours 4-0 in the previous meeting at Windsor Park and looked set to reach the finals in England, but this return encounter with Dowie’s team would scupper those plans.
It was just the eighth meeting of the teams, with three previous games in Dublin seeing the visitors return across the border having failed to register a goal. However, that would change thanks to the red-hot Dowie, who gave a bullied defence a nightmare during an all-action display.
Things seemed to be going to script when Niall Quinn put the hosts ahead at Lansdowne Road just after the restart, but on 73 minutes came a magical moment for the northern section of the Emerald Isle as the claimed a slice of history at the expense of their rivals.
Newcastle United’s Keith Gillespie raced onto a loose pass and jinked his way into the final third, before sending in a cross that was just begging to be tucked home. Unmarked in the area was the 6’1” frame of Dowie, who gleefully leapt to power in a header that Alan Kelly couldn’t keep out, level the scores and ultimately grab a point for Bryan Hamilton’s team, which also contained future Eagle Michael Hughes in their ranks.
The dropped points allowed Portugal to sneak ahead of the Republic who eventually forced Jack Charlton’s team into the play-offs, where they were swept aside by Holland to end the World Cup winner’s popular tenure as Irish boss.
Dowie meanwhile would continue to lead the line for his nation for another five years, despite leaving Palace the following September for West Ham United with a record of 10 goals in 25 appearances.
Eventually ending his international career with 12 goals in 59 caps, he is still fourth on their all-time top scorers list, but none of those strikes will be remembered more fondly than Northern Ireland’s first ever goal in Dublin.