The dream is over. In fact not only is the dream over, it has become apparent that we had too much cheese before bedtime and consequently we had a nightmare.
The omens were bad. It started while watching the Spain-Italy match. Seeing the players do outlandish things like pass to each other, control the ball and make intelligent moves, the nagging feeling started to occur. Are we going to be the ones to be responsible for knocking either of these two teams out? That feeling passed but as the goals started to ping, putter, phthunk and hahahaha past Shay Given from all angles, it was replaced by another feeling: are we even playing the same game? The dream by this stage had become one of those ones where you are at school in your pyjamas but instead of everyone laughing at you, the teacher was Xabi and he was about to slice open your defence with a precision pass.
In some ways our time at this international tournament was like our experiences at the Eurovision. We used to be really good back in the late eighties and early nineties but we haven’t done anything since. Europe has moved on and evolved and there are serious doubts about our selection policy this year.
And poor old Roy Keane sitting there on the couch watching all of this unfold. Worse for Roy was that he had to explain the whole thing to the English. Explaining Irish failures to the English is like discussing your father’s erratic behaviour with his brother-in-law. You can’t argue with the fact that he is up a tree in his underpants, singing Don’t Cry For Me Argentina and throwing Chipsticks at passing cars; but to criticise him would be disloyal.
As the Spanish game progressed, Roy squirmed, forced to watch as the Irish team, metaphorically at least discarded even its underpants and its dignity. It was too much to bear. He just let rip.
What followed was a typical Roy situation – a valid point that he was making from the heart became obscured by the fact that:
He’s Roy Keane
People wilfully misinterpreted some of what he said because he’s Roy Keane. Most of his comments were about the team needing to do better for their supporters but then in one fateful sentence he said the supporters need to change their mentality. This was never going to pass. It is a natural law that one wealthy man cannot criticise a group of less wealthy people spending their own money and time any way they want, and hope to win the argument.
He’s Roy Keane
He was incorrect in at least one aspect:
When the Irish fans were singing it was not in endorsement of footballing farrago they had just witnessed. The performances were so bad, there was no danger of any cheering being construed as a “Sure it’s grand”. It was just making the best of a bad situation. What were they supposed to do? They were on their holidays a thousand miles from home. If they started to boo they’d only feel even worse for the rest of their short time there. As Roy fumed in the studio, trying to explain to the English what was going on, the Irish fans came out from their house, talked the man in the underpants down from the tree and put a blanket around him. It was the human thing to do.
In the aftermath of that – where do we go from here? Some things we know for definite:
All of the team’s and some of Trapattoni’s aura is gone. It’s impossible to watch any of the 3mobile advertisements where various Irish players and Giovanni encourage a boy to eat his broccoli or a man to ask a girl out without thinking: “Maybe I need another opinion. This was the guy who brought Paul Green on as a substitute.”
Manuela will have to learn to translate some new phrases for Trap such as “Seriously Giovanni, like, I mean c'mon, like, I mean, j’ knowlke, like, but seriously for ffffffffffffffffffsake”
One way or another, the Polish experience will never be repeated. Either we will never qualify for another tournament, or if we do we won’t be the worst team in it and even if we are, it’s hard to believe fans would stand for it again. It’s quite one thing to grin and bear one tournament but even the most die-hard generous supporter would feel like an eejit to be serenading any repetition of what happened in the last two weeks. You may be sure Mary and Michael from the Fields of Athenry didn’t go to steal Trevellyn’s corn again. However, we can’t let the spirit engendered in those madcap few weeks dissipate. Irish fandom needs to bring its unique talent to the next major sporting event. The Olympics.
Our special brand of support should be a big feature of all the events. New songs may be required but no better nation to come up with the goods. “The Track and Field of Athenry” is one suggestion. But we shouldn’t be just supporting the main events. Irish fans should also attend the minority sports. For three day eventing the song could be “A Horse Outside…The Medal positions”, sailing: “Cmon You Boats In Green, Cmon You Boats In Green”, Rowing “We’re on the One Row, swinging along...” and no doubt some rude Badminton song involving shuttlecocks.
For now though, there’s only one song to sing, which exemplifies the struggle of the plucky underdog against all odds.
“C'mon You Boys In Greece”