By Jay Mwamba
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — After Ireland’s last game in the 1996 U.S. Cup, Irish boss Mick McCarthy vowed that the Republic would not accept any American invitations again because of poor officiating and other organizational snafus.
McCarthy was smiling this time around, satisfied with his under-strength side’s performance.
"I said four years ago that we wouldn’t come back, but we have and we’ve enjoyed ourselves," he said. "We won’t always get the Roy Keanes at this time of the year, but for me it’s about developing new players," he said.
Asked if Ireland’s return to Giants Stadium had rekindled memories of World Cup ’94, a grinning Niall Quinn, whose goal sank South Africa last Sunday replied:
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"I was doing what you are doing, reporting," he said. "I was injured. But it was brilliant to have played here."
The towering forward, who hopes to remain in coach McCarthy’s plans for the 2002 World Cup qualifying campaign, delivered a second blow to the South African after the match, emphatically endorsing England’s bid to host the 2006 finals.
"I’d rather it [the World Cup finals] be in England. There’s a great soccer tradition there," the Sunderland hero said.
South Africa are also bidding to host the finals.
Mexico’s 3-0 loss to the United States at Giants Stadium ended their five-year unbeaten run both in the U.S. Cup and against the Americans. Their last defeat was a 4-0 shellacking to the hosts in the 1995.
Horacio Sanchez, nephew of Mexican/UNAM coach Hugo Sanchez, led all scorers in the U.S. Cup with three strikes. One of the marksmen in the 2-all tie with Ireland in Chicago on June 4, Sanchez hit two late goals in a 4-2 midweek victory over South Africa in Dallas to bring his tally to three.
Jesus Olade and Luis Perez were the other scorers against Bafana Bafana, while Benni McCarthy and Dumisi Ngobe replied for the Africans.
Despite the name South Africa’s Benni McCarthy doubts if there’s any Irish in him.
"I don’t know if I have some Irish in me. It’s an old family name," the 22 year-old Celta Vigo striker said.
But he did relish playing against the Republic, establishing himself as the best player on the field before a hamstring injury kept him in the locker room after halftime.
"It was the last day of the tournament and we were playing against Ireland, strong opposition who play the English style. I like playing the English style," McCarthy, who set up Shaun Bartlett’s goal, said.
South Africa’s Shaun Bartlett logged a lot of frequent flyer miles during the eight-day duration of the U.S. Cup. The former MLS star of the Colorado Rapids and the MetroStars played in Bafana’s 4-0 defeat by the USA in the opener on June 3.
Bartlett then flew to Switzerland in an attempt to save his club, FC Zurich, from relegation. He did, as Zurich posted a 1-0 midweek victory that kept them in the First Division. Bartlett returned to the States two days before South Africa’s game against Ireland, and scored.
Was he jetlagged? "Not really," he replied. "And it was a pretty good feeling scoring. [Giants Stadium] is sort of my home ground."