Patriot Games

Get behind them. (Pic:oneteaminireland.blogspot.com)

“I would imagine that the Irish people would be ecstatic if they qualify”. The words of Cindy Blundell, a Toronto native, when asked about the possibility of the Ireland football team reaching a European Championship for the first time in 24 years. Not so Cindy.
                Enthusiasm was scarce around the NUIG campus yesterday when this reporter carried out a survey on how much Ireland qualifying would mean to Irish people. Cindy mentioned that she “would watch it if they got that far”, which was more than could be said for many of the Irish natives questioned. Shane Callinan captured the over all mood perfectly when he said “Its boring for me, I couldn’t give a s**t”
                It has to be asked why this is the case? Why are the Irish people so ambivalent about the possibility of having something to cheer next summer? Surely amidst the unlifting economic gloom, an Irish good news story of this magnitude would be something to warm Irish hearts before what will inevitably be a long winter?
                Perhaps a degree of the apathy is the fault of the Irish team tactics. Whereas the national rugby team in New Zealand played the majority of their games at a hundred miles an hour, watching their football counterparts can sometimes feel like the sporting equivalent of the dentist’s drill. It’s bloody painful.
                That’s no excuse however. The end justifies the means and if Ireland were to attain qualification then any amount of torn out hair and fingernails bitten to the quick would seem a small price to pay.
                Kevin Bourke, a 21 year old from Tipperary, pointed out that “a whole generation of Irish people have never seen Ireland play at a European Championships”. Perhaps then it is a generational gap. It is unlikely that the majority of NUIG students remember the heady days of Jack’s army, and were possibly still too young to appreciate the Saipan incident. Or as it was otherwise called, World Cup 2002.
                Not all those questioned were indifferent however. Some were genuinely excited at the prospect of following Ireland next summer. Conor Nolan, a 41 year old from Athlone said “of course I’m interested, because it’s our country and I’m a patriot”.
                This was an overall theme with those who said they cared about Ireland beating Estonia. It wasn’t so much an affinity with the Irish footballers themselves, but rather the idea that it would be the patriotic thing to do. Paul Curley, 23, from Galway held the opinion that the players were “overpaid and not worth stressing about”, and Samantha O’Connor from Longford merely admitted that “it would be cool to have something to cheer”.
                It really would Samantha. Even Paul Curley’s prediction of “a nil all draw in Tallinn and a scrappy 1-0 win in Dublin” would suffice right now. In terms of Irish support, the tide seems to be out right now, but if Ireland does qualify, then expect the country to be on the crest of a wave next summer.
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