Throughout the world, there are footballers destined to be forever remembered for one solitary moment.
For the unlucky ones, that can mean an otherwise glittering career being completely overshadowed by an embarrassing own-goal or a costly penalty miss. Fortunately for Pat Bonner, he belongs to another, more auspicious breed. That is because, for the rest of his days and doubtless beyond, the name of this beloved Irish goalkeeper will always be synonymous with one very special save.
It was by no means his best: he had made and would go on to make many better in a career that spanned 80 caps and 642 appearances for Celtic, his one and only club. Yet none were more significant, nor more fondly remembered, than the diving lunge that blocked a penalty from Romania's Daniel Timofte and sent Republic of Ireland into the quarter-finals at Italy 1990. To this day, in fact, many consider it to be the nation's 'JFK moment', with every Irishman able to tell you where he was when 'Packie' took his place in history.
"It still amazes me, the impact that save has had," Bonner told FIFA.com. "Every day, I have people coming up to me to talk about it and thank me. It really wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that that one save changed my life forever, certainly in terms of recognition. It's lovely, although sometimes you do feel like saying, 'I did make some other saves, you know!'
"But I do feel very fortunate because one thing that whole World Cup experience achieved, which was unique and very special, was to bring everyone in the country together. Our economy was very weak at the time, there was a bit of pessimism there, and I really believe that seeing us out there in Italy, taking on the world, fighting our corner against the very best, changed the mindset of the nation. Football can be that important, I genuinely believe that."
When Jack Charlton's team returned from Italy, an estimated 500,000 people packed the streets of Dublin to let the players know just how important their efforts had been in scenes that Bonner, for one, will never forget. The football world had witnessed the birth of Republic of Ireland as a force to reckoned with and, four years later, the boys in green were back on the global stage. Yet what they found in the USA was a very different kind of FIFA World Cup.
As Bonner explained: "It was a real culture shock to go from Italy, which is a real football country, to the US, where it was obvious that most people didn't even know the World Cup was on! The tournament just didn't have the same atmosphere around it and the climate in Florida certainly didn't help us. That said, I'll always remember the game against Italy in New York, not so much for the fact we beat them, but for the way the Irish fans completely took over that stadium. If we'd been in that part of the country for the whole competition, I think we'd have enjoyed it a lot more."
Bonner's 15-year reign as his country's No1 came to an end in 1996, and following stints on the backroom staff at Celtic and Reading, it was no surprise when he returned the Republic of Ireland set-up as goalkeeping coach under Mick McCarthy. These days, however, the Football Association of Ireland employ the 49-year-old in a more demanding day-to-day role, heading up its biggest and most important department as technical director.
"It's a massive job and it has grown dramatically since I've taken it on," Bonner said. "Our clubs don't have professional academies like they do across the water in England and Scotland, so we have to do it ourselves in terms of developing our own players. That's required a major plan from grassroots up to the senior side.
"I have 110 staff working with me in the department and we brought in a performance director, (former Netherlands international) Wim Koevermans, who I now work very closely with to make sure we make the best of the resources we have. There's certainly no respite, and it's very different to anything I ever dealt with during my playing career. But I'm delighted to be contributing and hopefully I can play my part in a very successful future for Irish football."