Glenmalure Park 17 April 1985 – Ireland 0–4 Denmark
Denmark too strong for Ireland in Dublin
Classic match report: Lone Smidt Hansen-inspired Danes thump Ireland 4–0 in prestige friendly
Ireland crashed 4–0 to ruthless Denmark, with a virtuoso Lone Smidt Hansen pulling the strings.
Buoyed by a 1500-strong crowd at the spiritual home of Shamrock Rovers, Ireland began with what the Irish Independent dubbed: “plenty of fire and spirit”.
On 33 minutes Breda Cummins ran onto a Garryowen and headed powerfully at goal, only for Gitte Hansen to make a reflex save.
But three minutes from the interval, debutante Karen Leth Hansen gave Denmark the lead with a six-yard header. Leth Hansen was the Danes’ sole representative of the once-mighty BK Femina club.
With Ireland rattled, it was soon 2–0 when Birgitte Frederiksen flicked in a left-wing cross from strong-running Smidt Hansen on 39 minutes.
Nine minutes into the second-half Debbie McGarry scored an own goal, inadvertently knocking another dangerous cross by Smidt Hansen past 17-year-old goalie Sue Kelly.
Substitute Annie Gam-Pedersen scored Denmark’s fourth on 56 minutes, with Smidt Hansen again the architect.
On 80 minutes Ireland’s best ref Paddy Daly blew his whistle to bring an end to the agony.
So it was disappointment for the Girls in Green – but only equivalent to that felt by their male counterparts, thrashed twice by the stylish ‘Danish Dynamite’ team in qualifying for the Mexico ’86 World Cup.
The two nations share an indelibly intertwined history. In the Dark Ages, Danes harried Ireland’s coastline in their longships before raiding inland to found cities including Dublin and Cork.
These Viking invaders were eventually brought to heel by Brian Boru, High King of Ireland, at the battle of Clontarf in 1014.
Although to this day Denmark, like Britain, nurses a bogus claim on Rockall, the proudly Irish North Atlantic islet.
Another shared experience from 2017 is player ‘revolts’ in the respective national women’s football teams.
Irish players led by recently-retired goalkeeper Emma Byrne finally grew weary of demeaning treatment from their own governing body and won some limited concessions after a tense stand-off.
Tall, blond Byrne – a former Fortuna Hjørring player – surely boasts Viking heritage. She hails from Leixlip, which aptly translates as “salmon leap” in Viking.
She took a veritable halberd (long battleaxe) to backward attitudes at the FAI!
For their part, Denmark’s women’s team had an exceptional Euro 2017, only to get a slap in the face from their feckless employers the DBU. The sulking players duly sat out a qualifier in Sweden.
Stuck in their time-warp the men of the DBU may be said to resemble Tollund Man; the ancient, shrivelled corpse found in a Danish bog and made famous by Irish poet Seamus Heaney.
London-based Irish duo Cathy Hynes and Noreen O’Flynn were absent from this fixture but both played for Friends of Fulham in their English FA Cup final win over Doncaster Belles a few weeks later. Clara woman Hynes hit Fulham’s second goal, a sumptuous chip, at Craven Cottage.
As usual, Ireland were without their star player Anne O’Brien – like all O’Briens, a descendant of the afore-mentioned Brian Boru. Anne had just rejoined Lazio from Trani in Italy’s Serie A, but the cost and logistics of getting her in a green shirt made it a no-go.
Moving in the opposite direction from Lazio to Trani was Danish hot-shot Susy Augustesen, an astonishing EIGHT-time Capocannoniere. As a 15-year-old she scored a hat-trick in the final of the 1971 FIEFF World Cup in Mexico, but had been conspicuously absent since the DBU launched an ‘official’ national team in 1974.
Italian aristocrats Trani had another Dane, a versatile midfielder named Ulla Bastrup. She won one cap in 1984, but was then off the national team radar after joining Trani in 1985.
For some reason the third member of Trani’s Danish triumverate, Lone Smidt Hansen (later Nielsen), DID get picked – much to Ireland’s cost. She was a phenomenal talent, perhaps the Pernille Harder of her day. Lone’s daughter Karoline is also a Danish international.
Ireland boss Eamonn Darcy took the reins in spring 1984, replacing Tony Kelly, and stayed on until March 1986. In a former life he’d been an extrovert goalkeeper for Oldham Athletic and several League of Ireland clubs.
Nicknamed “Sheila” (for screen siren Sheila Darcy), Eamonn was a larger-than-life character known during his playing days for zany, crowd-pleasing antics between the posts.
He bought into women’s football, and was a staunch advocate of the Irish domestic league’s summer scheduling. In comments which foreshadowed developments in Irish men’s football some 20 years later, he said:
What we are aiming for is the sort of atmosphere generated at Rugby League Cup finals in Wembley
That was a line trotted out 30 years later by the big minds putting together the English WSL, which turned into a damp squib. Partly because they thought they were breaking new ground but had no conception of the historical context.
Anyway, Darcy built his team around Belvedere defender Linda Gorman – a seasoned veteran of Ireland’s first national team fixtures in 1973. She was restored to the captaincy ahead of Denise Lyons and collected a record 25th cap in the Denmark game.
Another stalwart of the 1973 games was midfielder Breda Cummins (née Hanlon). Dubliner Cummins roared back into national team contention after getting married and giving birth to her daughter.
Both Gorman and Cummins played for Belvedere who reached the 1985 LFAI Cup final in their first year of existence, losing 2–0 to Rathfarnham in a replay at Dalymount Park.
In July 1991 Linda Gorman became the first woman to manage the Irish national team. But – like Darcy – she found it a thankless task and quit in spring 1992.
Given Darcy’s playing background he knew goalkeeping talent when he saw it. Upon taking over he wasted little time in drafting in 15-year-old Cork prodigy Sue Kelly.
A big Liverpool supporter, Kelly caused a sensation by transferring from Celtic to Rangers – Cork Celtic to Cork Rangers, that is.
Eithne Hennessy, 23, of Waterford Benfica was the other goalkeeper in the squad and another safe option.
The previous number one, Glade Celtic’s Jackie Hogan, excelled in Ireland’s 1–0 home defeat by England in Euro 84 qualifying but felt scapegoated when she was dropped after the reverse fixture went pear-shaped. Unimpressed, she retired from football.
Birger Peitersen was a former Skovbakken player who was coaching at Helsingør IF while working as a PE teacher. He took over from Flemming Schultz after Denmark’s defeat by England in the Euro 84 semi-final.
In 1987–88 he managed Brøndby men to the Danish League title and in subsequent years has become quite a well known television pundit.
Despite their unfortunate defeat by England the Danes retained a very strong squad. Although due to their idiosyncratic naming customs it was often unclear whether they sported middle names, Spanish-style second surnames or patronymics.
Like Thomas Delaney of the 2017 men’s vintage, midfielder Susan McKensie possessed a random un-Danish sounding moniker.
For the Danes this trip to Ireland was a tune-up for their crunch Euro 87 qualifier with West Germany two weeks later. It did the trick as they pummelled the Germans 3–0 in Sønderborg.
Youngster Grainne Cross scooped a transfer from her local Limerick team De Beers to Serie A Fiammamonza in January 1986, presumably because she’d shown up well in Ireland’s national team fixtures.
Several other players including goalkeeper Sue Kelly, Alvy Styles, Catherine Byrne, Denise Lyons and Ann Thorp eventually left for American colleges.
Ireland’s loss was the USA’s gain as most of these émigrés developed into even better coaches.
True, it gave chances to others. When Sue Kelly, Noreen Herlihy and Trish Hughes all took up their Stateside scholarships on the eve of a match against Sweden in 1988, a certain Susan Ronan was one of the replacements drafted in.
Outfielder Sue Hayden inherited Kelly’s gloves and never looked back.
But it was a massive ‘brain drain’ and part of the reason Irish women’s football remained stuck in the doldrums for so long.