19 September 2005
Ireland v France, September 7th 2005 (0-1)
This was the game the whole country had been waiting for all summer long. Everyone knew how vital it was. In the estate I live, a good number of houses had tricolours hanging out the windows and even when I went to get my hair chopped on Tuesday, all the two girls in the barbers could talk about was football & how we were going to turn the French over.
Tickets were almost impossible to get and with 24hours to go until kick-off, ThePeoplesFlag hadn’t a solitary ticket between us and it looked a distinct possibility that none of us would be there to see the BoysInGreen grabbing the three points that would send us half way to Germany. Late on Tuesday night though our look began to change when Karl got a text from Ste in the SRFC ultras. Two of the four tickets we needed were offered to us & we are eternally grateful – thanks again Ste. The following morning Eamo got offered a seat on the North Terrace from Brendan and our deficit was halved again. We searched high and low for the final the ticket but with an hour to go to kick-off we gave up. Then the moment of truth - Niall & I had a mini-raffle to decide which of us went to the South Terrace with Karl & which of us went to the pub !!!! Following the draw, we all chipped in few quid for Niall to get a taxi home to ensure he got back to Greenhills in time for kick-off. I felt sick for him & cursed the fact that a fourth ticket never turned up. A classic case of a genuine supporter, who goes to every worthless money-making friendly that the FAI stage & who has spent a fortune travelling around Europe & the Far East in support of our National team, not getting a ticket for the big game while I’m sure there were suits in Lansdowne last night who were attending their first ever game of football. I even saw some “fans” leaving with five minutes left to avoid the crowds afterwards !!!!
For the first time in years we got into the ground well over half an hour before kick-off. I didn’t have the stomach for more drink after the gut-wrenching raffle to see if I was going to the game. Anyway, we wanted to completely soak up the atmosphere. And what an atmosphere it was !!! Lansdowne hasn’t rocked like that since the OrangeMen visited four years ago. We were in with the Eircom League supporters and didn’t sit from the first whistle to the last. Non stop singing, chanting and shouting. Marvellous !!!
Ireland started really well but after 7 or 8 minutes conceded a free kick just outside the box after a clumsy Richie Dunne challenge on Henry. Zidane curled a beauty over the wall and was arrowing towards the top corner until somehow, Shay leapt across and clawed it away. A truly world-class save from the brilliant Donegal man. Not long afterwards we won a free in a similar position and Andy Reid curled a beauty against the post. A couple of inches to the right and we’d have been ahead because their keeper hardly moved. Robbie then had a big shout for a penalty after being slipped in by a lovely flick by Clint. Looked a definite penalty to me and I went ballistic when the German ref didn’t blow.
Most of our lads had settled into the game at this stage but I was getting a bit worried that the Duffer wasn’t seeing much of the ball. He did link up well with O’Shea midway through the first half & his cross was brilliantly dummied by Clint and blazed over the bar by Robbie. Clint was working tirelessly & had a couple of half chances but his strike partner had a very poor outing. Too many late nights in Lillie Bordellos I think !!! O’Shea was piss poor again, Kilbane was anonymous for a lot of the game and poor Duffer never really got going. I don’t ever remember seeing him have a bad game in green shirt so we’ll just put it down as being one of those nights. On the other hand I don’t ever remember seeing Judas playing so well. He was everywhere and broke up attack after attack. He was thoroughly deserving of the man-of-the-match award. Richie Dunne & Kenny Cunningham were also exceptional while Reid, Carr & Clint did as much as I would have expected from them. However, this was a night when we needed everyone to be on top of their game and unfortunately a few of our lads never got out of the traps.
The first half finished with the visitors having come back into it slightly & Vieira had flashed a good effort just past Shay’s left hand post. It had been pretty even with neither side having any sustained period of dominance. If anything we might have had slightly more chances. It had 0-0 written all over it & I’d have been more than happy if the scoreline didn’t change over the next hour or so. That was about as good as it got though from an Irish point of view. We never really troubled them in the second period even after we had gone behind. Maybe our lads were just in awe of the strike that wrapped up the points. There was just over twenty minutes to go when Henry picked up a breaking ball about twenty yards out. Richie was too slow to close him down and with barely any backlift he curled a beauty past Shay into the top corner. He’d hardly had a kick all night and yet somehow contrived this piece of genius. Had it been scored by one of his green shirted opponents I’d have sat here and written a full page on it using every superlative possible.
That was it. We were all as sick as parrots and try as we might to lift the team, they were simply unliftable at this stage. I don’t recall us making any real chances in the final twenty minutes & even the couple of corners that we won were just dropped into the arms of the grateful French keeper. The ref only played two minutes of injury time but it wasn’t worth getting worked up about because we could have been there until midnight and we wouldn’t have scored. Creativity is a real problem in this side if the Duffer isn’t on song.
I really hate losing, but losing a game of this magnitude is even worse. We met up with Eamo, Garret and Ollie in Slatterys afterwards but we just all sat around glum-faced feeling sorry for ourselves. Then I heard that the Northies had beaten their Motherland. Another sickener. I could just imagine the loyalist bigots celebrating on the double. Them actually winning a game for a change & the Fenians getting beaten in Dublin !!!
Thoughts now turn to Cyprus. Four of the five of us are heading over. Amazingly, it is Eamo who is sitting this one out !!! Donogh is even heading over from Oz. This is now a game that we simply have to win. There can be no excuses. Clint, Judas & Reid all collected yellow cards last night, which rule them out of this trip so it’s not going to be easy. Good luck to all who are travelling over. I’m sure we’ll meet up with a lot of you in and around Ayia Napa. Untill then …….
PS – if anyone thinks they might have a couple of tickets to spare for the Swiss game, we’d really appreciate if you could keep us in your thoughts!!!! I don’t want any of us having to go through what poor Niall went through last night