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A nation holds its breath: Tony O'Shea's remarkable Italia 90 photos

An estimated 500,000 people turned out for the Jackie’s Army homecoming.

unnamed Source: Tony O'Shea/Café Royal Books

IT MAY BE 28 years since the glory of Italia 90 and Jackie’s Army, but it continues to loom large in the Irish consciousness.

Last year, the publication of a 28-page book of images by photographer Tony O’Shea brought the electricity and joy of the Republic of Ireland’s homecoming celebrations to life once again.

tony_oshea_italia_90_dublin13 Source: Tony O'Shea/Café Royal Books

Italia 90 Dublin marks the first time the photos have been published together as a series, and O’Shea says the collection speaks of a time of change for Ireland which began with Italia 90.

[I]t marked perhaps the beginning of a new departure in how the country thought about itself. The 1980s were a pretty bleak time in Ireland.

tony_oshea_italia_90_dublin11 Source: Tony O'Shea/Café Royal Books

Italia 90 brought about a newfound positivity and a lift of spirits for Irish people, notes O’Shea:

By the beginning of the 1990s, a new confidence was beginning to emerge and a hope that we might after all be able to drag ourselves out of the doldrums. The performance of the team in the World Cup seemed to signal that.

photo1 Source: Tony O'Shea/Café Royal Books

To take the photos, which are 28 years old this year, O’Shea traveled in an overflow bus driving ahead of the team and photographed the crowds from there. The excitement on the streets was tangible and the atmosphere was one of “joy and celebration,” he recalls:

Most of the crowd were looking back to the team which made some of the pictures a little mysterious, maybe conveying a feeling of great expectations. It was an exciting, dramatic and high energy event to witness.

photos2 Source: Tony O'Shea/Café Royal Books

Independent English publisher Café Royal Books, which has a focus on documentary photography, publishes around 70 titles each year.

Craig Atkinson started Café Royal Books thirteen years ago, and mainly publishes shots from the UK and Northern Ireland.

It’s a type of work that is important, historically and photographically, and has been fairly neglected. Much of what I publish is previously unseen.

tony_oshea_italia_90_dublin9 Source: Tony O'Shea/Café Royal Books

Despite the publishers’ growth over the last 13 years, Atkinson makes a point of producing work that’s affordable and accessible – most of the books cost around £6 (€6.80).

Italia ’90 is one of several Irish-themed books published by Café Royal Books. Others include Wally Cassidy’s Dublin Punks series and Homer Sykes’ Biddy Boys series.

tony_oshea_italia_90_dublin10 Source: Tony O'Shea/Café Royal Books

“I’m sure there’ll be more,” says Atkinson. “In fact, I know there are more. Soon.”

You can buy Tony O’Shea’s Italia ’90 book for £6 from Café Royal Books. Additionally, you can follow them on Instagram here.

More: The technicolour rock at the centre of the Waterford-Kilkenny rivalry

More: Sean’s Bar in Athlone is Ireland’s oldest pub

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Amy O'Connor

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