Eoin Hand’s term as manager of the Republic of Ireland soccer team is often overshadowed by the glory days of Jack Charlton. If Charlton had good luck, Hand was all too familiar with its quarrelsome sibling: bad luck. This is the inside story of his time in football, from his start with Swindon Town at eighteen, through playing for Portsmouth and Ireland, to managing the Irish team. With one of Ireland’s greatest generations of players, such as Liam Brady, Ronnie Whelan and Frank Stapleton, the luck of the draw repeatedly pitched Hand against elite teams. His tenure came to an end when Ireland failed to qualify for the 1986 World Cup.
Despite having come closer than any previous manager to qualifying, he endured intense criticism from the press. Eamon Dunphy, who grew up close to him and played alongside him for Ireland, mounted a campaign of fierce abuse. Hand responds for the first time, revealing significant unknown facts about Dunphy. Along with anecdotes about top players and managers, he exposes the inner workings of the FAI and assesses its stewardship of Irish football.
Chronicling his time abroad, from England to Saudi Arabia, he reveals how his life was threatened in apartheid South Africa. With unflinching honesty and bracing humour, he also lays bare the personal issues that led to heavy drinking and almost dying of acute pancreatitis. That he managed to pull through at all is testament to the resilience with which this provocative memoir crackles.
Eoin Hand, born in Dublin, won 20 caps with the Republic of Ireland. As player-manager of Limerick United, he won the League of Ireland title in 1980. After managing the Irish team and clubs from England to Saudi Arabia, he worked as a career guidance officer for the FAI. Now retired, he lives in Kerry.
Ghostwriter Jared Browne had trials with Manchester United and Liverpool, and represented the Republic of Ireland at schoolboy level before leaving football for a university education. His first book was Dunphy: A Football Life (2012). He is Irish Correspondent for UK football magazine BACKPASS and lives in Kerry.