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Glory Days Roddy Doyle recalls the magic of Italia ’90 in RTÉ's latest episode on the Barrytown trilogy

It’s only 31 years later I can actually acknowledge it was such a bad penalty. It was always to me a brilliant save, but a crap penalty”


Roddy Doyle.

Roddy Doyle.

Roddy Doyle.

Roddy Doyle will be seen tonight describing David O’Leary’s famous winning goal against Romania in Italia ’90 as “a crap penalty”.

Ireland were sent through to the quarter finals of the World Cup after Packie Bonner saved Daniel Timofte’s penalty and then O’Leary followed by scoring his to joyous celebrations in the stadium in Genoa and across Ireland.

Doyle’s 1996 film The Van was set against the background of Italia ’90 and sees characters played by Colm Meaney and Brendan O’Carroll – in his first film role – join friends and neighbours to watch the big game in a pub in Barrytown.


Dave O'Leary buries the ball, and Romania, in that famous shoot-out in Genoa

Dave O'Leary buries the ball, and Romania, in that famous shoot-out in Genoa

Dave O'Leary buries the ball, and Romania, in that famous shoot-out in Genoa


“Back in the early ’90s I was living and working in America, so the World Cup scene was my only opportunity to experience the spirit of Italia ‘90 and boy did I get a flavour of what I missed,” recalls Meaney, who played unemployed Larry, who with his mate Bimbo buys a chip van to sell takeaway food during the recession.

“It was a great moment for Ireland and a great business opportunity for Larry and Bimbo. Lots of chips bought that day,” he says.

The local ‘Nation holds its breath’ scenes were reenacted in the Foxhound Inn pub in Kilbarrack.

“It’s only 31 years later I can actually acknowledge it was such a bad penalty. It was always to me a brilliant save, but a crap penalty,” claims Doyle.

Doyle, who supports Chelsea, adds: “It was the best of the luck that I had when I was writing the book that the World Cup took off and indeed the Provos owned the flag for a while but then in 1990 when people waved it to celebrate, that was big, and I think The Van captures that quite well.“

Brendan O’Carroll’s character Weslie is seen pouring a pint over his head in celebration for the penalty shootout scene, with one local wag joking it was the only pint served to the crowd during filming.

Meaney’s character, Larry. reacted to the result by kissing his wife Maggie and shouting: “I love Ireland!”.

“The daftest line I ever wrote,” says Doyle.

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Ger Ryan, who played Maggie, admits Italia ’90 lifted the spirit of the nation and added to the charm of the film.

“The country was broke, there was nothing happening that we could see,” she stresses. “Then suddenly you had this unbelievable great time. So people kind of got a real lift from that and think within that lift came a bit of confidence.”

Neilí Conroy, who played Larry’s daughter Diane, was only 14 when she filmed her role (she is now best known to TV viewers as Sharon Collins in Fair City).

“It was the first time I had ever kind of witnessed a collective of support for something, people wearing the colours and all,” she observes.

“I think it was the first time I was in a pub watching a football match.“

Meaney points out that the “extras cried tears of joy take after take”

“The atmosphere on the set, it was great,” admits Neilie. “As for all the scenes in in the Foxhound, with all the locals and extras, we all had a ball. We could relive those moments, they were so special.”

Brendan O’Carroll can remember shooting the film in the summer of 1995 with director Stephen Frears.

“It was my first film, my first movie ever”, he recalls.

“The very first day in Kilbarrack. I remember it well, I mean I was so nervous, so terrified. And it was a scene with yourself, myself and Donal (O’Kelly, Bimbo) at the bar counter going over the idea of buying the van.

“I thought Stephen Frears really was great for calming you down and Roddy was great. On the first day he said to me, ‘what your character is, is a thug, a bit of a con job, I suppose, just be yourself Brendan...’”.

The film features a famous scene on Dollymount Strand when Diane, who used to change her baby’s nappies in the van, left one behind and Larry mistook it for a piece of fish and tried to fry it.

It’s also revealed that when the van is finally destroyed by being rolled into the sea towards the end of the film, in real life its engine had to be removed to stop environmental contamination of the water and it had to be moved by being pushed on metal sheets.

The cast were invited to Cannes, where is was nominated for the Palme d’Or and given a cinema release in November 1996, which was the last of the famous Barrytown triology of books and films, which included The Commitments and The Snapper.

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