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Michael D Higgins leads tributes to Windsor Park hero Alan McLoughlin

The President has led the tributes to Alan McLoughlin, who has died at the age of 54. 

It was McLoughlin's goal on a tense night in Windsor Park that secured the Republic of Ireland's passage to the 1994 World Cup finals in the United States.

The former Swindon Town and Portsmouth midfielder had also been part of the Italia '90 Ireland squad, making his international debut as a substitute against England in Cagliari.

Michael D Higgins wrote, "Supporters of Irish soccer, and in particular those who will have followed the team during the Charlton and McCarthy eras, will have been greatly saddened by the news of the death of former Republic of Ireland international Alan McLoughlin.

"His passing at such an early age comes after a long battle with cancer.

"Sabina and I send our deepest sympathies to his family and friends, and to all those who knew him as a player for both club and country.”

6 October 1999; Alan McLoughlin during a Republic of Ireland training session at AUL Grounds in Clonshaugh, Dublin.

McLoughlin won more than 40 Ireland caps, but that goal against Northern Ireland would be the only time he found the net in a green (or, indeed, white) jersey.

Former international teammates have been sharing their grief at his passing.

Ex-Ireland goalkeeper Alan Kelly tweeted, "It’s with the saddest of hearts that I say goodbye to one of my best mates, Alan McLoughlin. He was a fighter, full of northern grit, with a razor sharp wit to match but most of all he was a true gentleman & friend."

Kevin Kilbane made his senior Ireland debut the same year McLoughlin was crowned international player of the year.

"Alan was a true Irishman who helped me in so many ways when I broke into the Irish squad at 20-years old, Kilbane said, "A great team mate, great pro & leader but more importantly such a great man."

Fellow 1990 and '94 veteran Packie Bonner offered his condolences to McLaughlin's family, adding, "Gutted to hear the sad news about our great team mate Alan McLaughlin, he was a great personality to be around.

"He will be greatly missed."

McLoughlin's also been fondly remembered by former club teammates.

Darren Anderton - a fellow member of the Portsmouth side that reached the 1992 FA Cup semi-final - tweeted,"Dreadful news about Macca. Such a great player when I was at Portsmouth and an even better person. RIP mate. Thoughts are with Debs and the family. 

Guy Whittingham was another famous member of that Class of 92 under Jim Smith. And after Portsmouth had tumbled down the divisions, McLoughlin and Whittingham led the English south coast side.

"RIP Macca you wouldn’t want anyone else in the trenches with you," he wrote, "Love and thoughts to Deb, Abby & Megan he was a great man."

Goalscorer against England on McLoughlin's debut, and current Waterford boss, Kevin Sheedy said, "So sad to hear of the passing of Alan McLoughlin. Absolute top bloke. My thoughts are with his family at this desperately sad time."

While the Taoiseach, Micheál Martin tweeted to say, "So sad to hear about Alan McLoughlin. His talent - and that goal – let us all enjoy the 1994 World Cup. Such a wonderfully talented footballer who wore the Irish jersey with pride. RIP."

21 June 1990; Republic of Ireland players Chris Hughton, left, and Alan McLoughlin sit on the bench prior to the FIFA World Cup 1990 Group F match between Republic of Ireland and Netherlands at Stadio La Favorita in Palermo, Italy. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

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Alan Kelly Alan McLoughlin Darren Anderton Guy Whittingham Ireland Italia 90 Michael D Higgins Packie Bonner Portsmouth Republic Of Ireland USA 94 World Cup

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