Nutcases ruined special night for Irish football, says Kelly
Former Ireland international David 'Ned' Kelly has recalled how a "small minority of nutcases" ruined what should have been a special night for football more than 20 years ago.
Kelly (49) was part of the Irish squad that lined out to face England at Lansdowne Road on February 15, 1995.
"In the lead up to the game there was absolutely no animosity between the two squads, absolutely none. A lot of us would have been club mates with one another, so we got on quite well actually," he told the Herald.
"They had a great English team - Alan Shearer, David Seaman, David Platt, all top quality players."
The Irish side took the lead after just 25 minutes, with prolific striker Kelly getting the goal.
"I'd missed a couple of chances beforehand so it was a relief to finally put one away. It was great build up play from the team, I managed to get a shot off and David Seaman happily let the ball slip into the back of the net," he said, joking.
However, after a dream start trouble erupted in the upper West Stand, where the English fans had been placed.
"The trouble started straight after my goal. We were running back for kick-off, and we noticed a lot of commotion in the English stand. You could see chairs being ripped off seats, missiles being thrown, it was awful.
"The referee, Denis Jol, abandoned the game shortly afterwards, and we were rushed straight to the changing rooms.
"Within a matter of minutes after leaving the pitch we knew the match would be called off, by the way the officials were talking amongst one another," Kelly explained.
The start of the riots has been attributed to the striker's goal, but Kelly insists that "it would have kicked off either way".
"You could notice there was a lot of tension, it started when the national anthems were being booed before kick-off. I felt that it wouldn't take much for trouble to start. You could see that certain 'fans', if you can call them that, only had one thing on their mind and that was to create havoc," he said.
The occasion left Kelly feeling disappointed, not just because of the violence, but also because he felt an upset could have been on the cards.
"We were 1-0 up against a great English side, we were playing great and in control. It could have been a special night for Irish football, but instead a small minority of nutcases ended up ruining it."
Despite being centre to the match more than 20 years ago, Kelly won't be able to attend tomorrow's game against England.
The 49-year-old is currently recovering from a knee replacement, and has been confined to his home for the past two weeks, watching "painful daytime television," as he puts it.
However, the current Scunthorpe United assistant manager will watch the friendly at home, and is hoping for "an Ireland win, of course".
"It's a shame I can't make it over, but I'll be cheering on the Irish at home. Hopefully the match ends peacefully this time," he adds.