Jack Charlton’s side failed to score in their first three qualifying matches, but then won their remaining five without conceding.
On arrival in Italy, they came from behind to draw with England through a goal from Kevin Sheedy, then had a drab scoreless encounter with Egypt, before again coming from a goal down to draw with European champions Netherlands, as a Niall Quinn goal secured a place in the knockout stage.
On a tense afternoon in Genoa, Ireland and Romania both drew a blank after 120 minutes, and both scored their first four penalties in the resulting shoot-out. Packie Bonner’s legendary save from Daniel Timofte then set up David O’Leary to complete Ireland’s perfect five and take them through.
The adventure ended with a 1-0 defeat to the hosts in Rome, and for Ireland fans it all masked what was generally a poor World Cup overall, albeit not without its moments.
Cameroon shocked holders Argentina 1-0 on the opening day and went on to reach the quarter finals, where they gave England a scare before going down 3-2 after extra time.
England in turn were knocked out on penalties by West Germany in the semi finals, while Italy went out to Argentina in the same way, setting up a repeat of the final from four years before.
It was a final which largely reflected the dull tournament which had gone before. Argentina had two players sent off, and when Andreas Brehme scored the only goal from a penalty with five minutes to go, most of the world was quite glad not to have to sit through another half hour.