In the 1980's, the World Cup finals were held in Spain and Mexico. Once again Ireland did not participate, but we did come close to qualifying in 1982, only losing out on goal difference to France. Northern Ireland did qualify for the finals in both 1982 and 1986.
In 1982, the finals in Spain really set the world alight - I have many memories from this tournament. There was a huge win for Algeria over West Germany, but this was followed by one of the worst games ever when Austria and Germany contrived to eliminate Algeria by allowing the Germans to win 1-0. Brazil were fantastic in the early stages - Socrates especially standing out for me, but they lost out to a Paolo Rossi hat-trick in the quarter-finals. The finals were also famous for Harald Schumacher's (of Germany) "tackle" on Patrick Battiston of France, and Jimmy Magee's description of Horst Hrubush - "The man they call the Monster"! Northern Ireland had a famous win over Spain. But it was Italy who stole the how (despite drawing all three of their group matches) by winning the final 3-1 against the Germans, and at the same time creating probably the greatest goal celebration of them all from Marco Tardelli...
In 1986, there was only one topic of conversation - Diego Maradona. If ever one man won the World Cup single handedly, then this was it. Maradona dominated the competition, and provided us with two of the most famous moments in football - the "Hand of God" goal, and his incredible winner against England. The English had got off to a low start, but thanks to Gary "Crisps" Lineker, they reached the quarter-final only to lose to Maradona and ten other Argentines (England should have played Mrs T.).
But the biggest memory for me during the 1986 World Cup was the day France beat Brazil in the quarter-finals. This game was played less than three months before Roma and I got married. We went to Kilkenny city for the day (a most romantic day if I may say so). We stopped in Langton's Pub for dinner - but guess what - the match was on TV. Nevertheless, we sat in the restaurant part of the pub and did not watch the game - this was in the days before TV sets saturated pubs. I could see a TV in the distance, but not close enough to see what was happening. I did manage on the way back from the loo to see Zico miss a penalty for Brazil. The game ended in a penalty shoot-out and I couldn't contain myself - I had to see the shoot-out. By now Roma must have known I was addicted to football, and "allowed" me to see France win on penalties. An unforgettable day - and not just for football (Roma - you know what I mean!).