Irish and Polish fans may have a special affection for each other but all’s fair in love and football and the huge clash of the teams in Warsaw means, with Euro qualification up for grabs, friendship must be parked for 90 minutes. The countries have previously met on 26 occasions, the second of which resulted in President Hyde being removed as a patron of the GAA.
Poland have enjoyed the better record in the meetings between the sides, having won ten, drawn ten, and lost just six.
The first ever meeting between the teams was in 1938 when Poland triumphed 6-0 in Warsaw. The FAI XI had made its FIFA World Cup qualifying début for the 1934 tournament drawing 4-4 with Belgium at Dalymout Park. Paddy Moore scored all four of the Irish goals becoming the first player ever to score four in a World Cup game.
Ireland lost out on a place in the ’38 finals, a tournament Poland reached for the first time. The qualifying series involved a two-legged affair with Norway, the home tie of which in November 1937 saw the introduction of the 18-year-old Jackie Carey who had just transferred from St James Gate to Manchester United for a fee of £250.00. Carey would go on to become captain of the Red Devils and one of the finest players ever to don the Irish shirt.
In May 1938, the team travelled to Warsaw for the friendly with Poland in front of 25,000. The scorer of the Poles’ fourth goal Ernest Wilimowski would emulate the feat of Paddy Moore by scoring four against Brazil in a 5-6 loss the following month at the World Cup in France, Poland’s first appearance in the finals.
Wilimowski, whose parents were German, would represent both Poland and Germany in international football.
Having been inaugurated in June, Ireland’s new president Douglas Hyde attended the match, a move that was seen as breaching the GAA’s ban on ‘foreign’ games and he was subsequently removed as patron of the association, an honour he had held since 1902. The game finished 3-2 to Ireland with goals from Bill Fallon, Jackie Carey, and Jimmy Dunne. Wilimowski was on target again for the visitors.
Many members of the Polish team would go on to fight in World War Two, during which all sports in Poland were banned by the German authorities.
Ireland have played Poland away from home on fourteen previous occasions. The game in May 1981 marked the début on his 21st birthday of Packie Bonner. He condeded a goal within 90 seconds as Ireland went on to slump to a 3-0 defeat in an experience to forget for the Donegalman. Manager Eoin Hand returned to his first choice, Seamus McDonagh, who is now, of course, Martin O’Neill’s goalkeeping coach with the Republic.
The 2008 game at Croke Park saw Poland emerge with a 3-2 win to hand Giovanni Trapattoni his first defeat as Ireland manager.
The two countries met for a second time under Trapattoni when goals from Ciaran Clark and Wes Hoolahan gave the Italian manager a 2-0 win at the Aviva Stadium in February 2013.
Martin O’Neill took charge of the Irish side for the second time for the visit to Poznan and a friendly which ended 0-0 in November 2013. Man of the moment Shane Long proved the Irish hero again in the Euro 2016 qualifying home leg in Dublin with a last-gasp equaliser.
After the Irish downed world champions Germany, we’re now in a shoot-out for automatic qualification in Warsaw.