Match programme €5. Armagh GAA hat at a ROI soccer game, priceless.
Friday night saw a new name emerge in Irish football, Paul Green. A debut on Tuesday followed up with a first goal on Friday evening, as far as starts to an international career go, they don't get much better. Pulling the strings in the central midfield area alongside Glenn Whelan there was no doubt the Republic of Ireland looked like a side reborn following that fateful night at the Stade de France in November. Two comfortable wins over World Cup finalists Paraguay and Algeria respectively cement the notion that this is an Irish side on the up.
Unfortunately for the Republic the timing of this resurrgence in form has come 12 months too late. Had they converted those draws into wins during the qualifiers, the boys in green would be on that plane to South Africa leaving Italy and France in what would in effect be the 'Celebrity Deathmatch' of international football. Can you imagine the reaction at FIFA HQ?! Sepp Blatter and co. would be left scampering for 'Plan B' and forcing through that 33rd team for the Finals after all...
Fear not though, Giovanni Trappatoni looks like he is here for another campaign at least. The Italian is a man on a mission, and that is to guide the Republic of Ireland to a major Championship. He has the perfect opportunity too. The strongest side in his group for the European Championship's are Russia. Hardly spine-tingling. Infact, I'd fancy their chances to qualify as group winners. At 11/4 with partybets.com they're certainly worth a flutter.
THE FOOLS, THE FOOLS
On a more serious note, following tonight's game at the RDS in Dublin between ROI and Algeria, I have to come to the conclusion that 'Nordies' at Republic of Ireland football matches are quite possibly the most deluded people you will come across on the island. Imagine (if you will) a rather obese Northerner sporting an orange Armagh GAA shirt with Irish Tricolour painted on his forehead. Imagine him plonking himself directly behind you stuffing what could have been a hot-dog (gone in seconds whatever it was) down his throat, whilst belting out Amhrán na bhFiann in what could have been the Craigavon dialect of Ulster-Scots. After his sense of national pride had clearly been established, the much anticipated pre-match analysis was filtered through to the rest of the onlookers in the 16,000 strong crowd...
"Here mate, is that Hun b****** Bougherra startin'?"
As cringeworthy as it was, the response from the gentleman sat next to the young ill-informed Northerner was nonchalant...
"Which one's Hun-Bougherra buddy?"
Oblivious to the young lad's bigotry, the local man went on to watch the game with the rest of us in the 21st century. However, it summed up for me all that is wrong with the large sections of people from Northern Ireland that regularly follow the Republic of Ireland at football. These sections are intent on forcing their politics upon fans of the Southern team - many of whom simply arn't interested.
When will the people who tar the Northern Ireland support as bigots come to the realisation that infact, the scourge of sectarianism is still alive and kicking in certain sections of the Republic of Ireland support too?
And when will these 'patriotic' fans who flock across the border in the name of 'Irish Unity' understand a 26-county Irish team is just as much a partitioned Irish side as a 6-county one?
To quote another cringeworthy Irishman, the answers may be.....