Tag: Republic of Ireland

Euro 2016 Qualifying: North Men, South Men, Comrades All

When I first read that Uruguay’s population was just over three million, I thought “misprint.” Someone had clearly left a “1”, at least, off the figure. How could a population which would make London seem like a ghost town could be SO consistently good at football? I thought of Uruguay when the island of Ireland, population 6.3 million, qualified two teams for Euro 2016 and three million-strong Wales qualified too. The Republic of Ireland’s achievement is arguably the least remarkable of the three; I would place Michael O’Neill’s Northern Ireland top. This, however, is not a fully-informed view, as...

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Euro 2016: Ireland’s Long Ball Triumph

Unforgettable. Incomprehensible. Ireland were tiring. Germany, already given freedom of the flanks by a deliberately narrow defence, were finding gaps in the centre, too. Green-shirted bodies kept getting in the way in the nick of time. But you’d understand if they started getting there just after the nick of time after the effort they’d put in. If they could survive these few more minutes until half-time, who knows how German frustration would affect the German performance. I checked how long had been played: 14 minutes 53 seconds. Feck. It is difficult to quantify just how huge Ireland’s one-nil Euro...

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Ireland: O’Neill and Keane, The Rollercoaster Ride Begins

I’M GETTING OLD – EPISODE 94. I wasn’t looking at the TV when Marian Pahars’ name was first mentioned. But the memories were instant.Into the mind’s eye came the diminutive “Latvian Michael Owen” (which dates the reminiscence) being submerged by fans at The Dell (which dates it again) as he celebrated his first Southampton goal. “Who’s he playing for now?” I thought, as my eyes turned screen-wards to see new Ireland boss Martin O’Neill greeting a slightly crumpled little middle-aged man in a slightly crumpled little middle-aged suit. “Marian Pahars, the new Latvian coach,” the Sky TV commentator said. And I died a little inside. Pahars was in charge of a Latvian side so poor even Sky’s Ray Houghton said so, live on-air – not how Sky co-commentators are supposed to promote their ‘product.’ As such, they were ideal opposition for the dawning of a new era in Irish international football – akin to the “cannon-fodder” opposition which, in boxing, is given to a successful amateur for his first fight as a pro. To be fair, O’Neill’s (& Roy Keane’s) Ireland could have done almost nothing more than they did against the Latvians – convincingly beat them with a bit of a swagger. If the latter stages of Ireland’s 0-0 draw in Poland could have been a straight lift from the Giovanni Trapattoni era, there was still plenty of...

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O’Neill & Keane – The Dream Team?

Adrian Chiles looked pleased as he was introducing ITV’s Champions League coverage in San Sebastian on Tuesday, stood alongside Ireland’s new management team, Martin O’Neill and assistant Roy Keane. He was even confident/brave enough to liken them to “Laurel and Hardy,” with Keane stood well within arms-reach (Lee Dixon offered “dumb and dumber”, which was braver/dafter still). Chiles will almost certainly be bidding a farewell of sorts to charmless pundit Keane, now that the Corkman has decided that being Ireland’s assistant manager is a better bet than watching England scuff their way through qualifying campaigns. Keane will, of course, show the commitment to his new role that he’s so publicly and combatively demanded of others in Ireland’s set-up. So Keane will not emulate Gordon Strachan, who currently combines ITV punditry with managing Scotland. Unless Keane is some sort of hypocrite. And anyone reading Keane: My Autobiography, written about a 30-year-old Keane, while Roy was raging about “how many books (Ferguson) has written now” will know that he doesn’t do hypocrisy. To some of us, Keane as Ireland’s number two (a description with more than one meaning) is a price worth paying for O’Neill becoming Ireland’s number one. The actual price that the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) have paid is another matter, of course. Giovanni Trapattoni and Marco Tardelli’s contracts were negotiated in 2008 at the fag-end of Ireland’s...

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The Republic of Ireland: International Football As Tragi-Comedy

Appearances can deceive greatly. On Sunday, I watched my team – who have had such a good start to the season that they are starting to becomeperennially known as “high-flying Kingstonian” – beat Ryman League strugglers Thamesmead Town by a largely expected margin of 4-1. The Thamesmead goalkeeper, the delightfully-named Bob Budd, was responsible for the score. The score not being 8-1 (EIGHT-BLOODY-ONE!!), that is. As I sub-edit the Non-League Paper’s Ryman League Premier Division page, not only am I responsible for all those crap headlines (“Bury buried,” “Rocks rocked” etc…) but I was also ready for Budd’s terrific display of shot-stopping. His name featured heavily in Mead match reports, and not just from Mead’s own NLP reporter. So his athletic tendency to get in the way of goalbound shots and headers was less disconcerting to me than to many other Ks fans who might have clocked a scruffily-attired keeper and thought, “no wonder they’re bottom,” although, it must be added that despite the combination of terrific goalkeeper and relegation candidature, Mead looked a mid-way decent side. Budd was dressed like a Ray Clemence tribute-act, as in the yellow-shirted keeper who shared England duties with Peter Shilton throughout the mid-to-late 1970s. Budd’s yellow shirt looked faded and fractionally too big for him, giving the unfair impression of a Sunday league goalkeeper. And I thought of Budd when I first...

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