It’s time to hop aboard the bandwagon as we get ready for the European Championships, which kicks off on June 10th in Paris. Everybody loves a bandwagon. A case in point is a musician friend of mine who knows absolutely nothing about football. I mean absolutely nothing. He wouldn’t know the difference between a bicycle-kick […]
It’s time to hop aboard the bandwagon as we get ready for the European Championships, which kicks off on June 10th in Paris. Everybody loves a bandwagon. A case in point is a musician friend of mine who knows absolutely nothing about football. I mean absolutely nothing. He wouldn’t know the difference between a bicycle-kick and a bicycle-pump. This didn’t stop him writing a song for the 2012 Poland/Ukraine Euros and entering it in a competition to be the official song of the Irish team. His song didn’t win (it wasn’t great in fairness to him) but for a short few weeks leading up to the tournament he studied up on football so much that you’d think he almost knew what he was talking about.
And so, Ireland are back four years after that last memorable campaign which saw us voted best fans and worst team of the tournament. With only one or two players from four years ago set to feature in the starting eleven it’s a much different squad this time round and Roy Keane, for one, is determined that we’re not just there for, “a little sing song.” In Poland under Trap we conceded nine goals and scored one. Sean St Ledger (who now stocks up the back line for Colorado Rapids) brought the only spark of joy with the solitary goal – the only time the fans got to do “The Poznan” in celebration. We were way out of our depth and who will ever forget the sight of Paul Green gracing the same field as Xavi and Iniesta? Not me, even after 4 years of trying.
The Irish mindset never was to be positive but this time it has to be said there are far worse teams in it than us and to be fair to the Boys in Green judging by recent performances against the Germans and the Bosnians, we’re not half bad. Not half bad at all. Beating the world champions at home was a colossal result. We can’t beat the current world champions of rugby in over 111 years of trying and some people still seem to think the football boys are a waste of space when compared to the rugby lads.
We have a solid enough team now and there are grounds to be optimistic. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility we can get out of the group we’re in. True we have some journey men but we can knock the ball around a bit and with creative players like Wes Hoolihan and Robbie Brady in the squad it’s refreshing we have a manger under Martin O’Neill who trusts in natural ability.
We can come second, or third in our group. Sweden are close enough to being a one man team and if we can keep Zlatan quiet (a hard if, granted) we can win that game. A draw against Belgium in the next game is not out of the question (even a defeat and we’re still in it) and with a strong record of drawing with Italy it’s on to the next round, or quarters, perhaps, before defeat. An honourable defeat. In real Irish style not so much a defeat as “a moral victory.” That would be success.
For other teams France are favourites to win having a previous 100% record of winning football tournaments held on their soil –in 1984, and 1998. Our friends up North are going for the first time and as their fans like to sing, “We’re not Brazil, we’re Northern Ireland.” Indeed they’re not and the possibility of Norn Iron getting out of their group is about as remote as a statue of Gerry Adams being erected on the Shankill Road. Wales have qualified for the first time as well and England look the best they’ve looked in years. 50 years of hurt never stopped them dreaming, so could this be England’s year? I doubt it.
Is it possible for a minnow to win the Euros? Leicester won the League last year at 5000/1. Lecister! Everyone thought they were rubbish. They probably are, so it just goes to show what a lot of belief can do. Ireland are 150/1 to win the Euros. Greece won it in 2004, remember.
So, maybe we’re not going to win it, but we might surprise a few people. Seems worth a bet, if be it a small one.
By John Walshe, Donabate Library